Here is the letter we sent our with our Christmas cards this year; just a little update about all of us. :o)
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Here is the letter we sent our with our Christmas cards this year; just a little update about all of us. :o)
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
My husband missed out on a cake pop maker for three dollars last year, because he was too prideful to buy it after I'd mentioned seeing it on a blog. Don't let that happen to you. Just subscribe so she doesn't have to nag you.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Last week the Kindergarten kids had a wonderful little program that they had been working on for a couple months. It was just too adorable and so much fun!
|Always the performer, ha!|
|You think he's a little bored? ;o)|
|Family pic with our little Kindergarten grad!|
|Z with his two teachers|
I have to say, I am so proud of my big guy for all he accomplished in this school year. While he went in already being able to read and write some, I was amazed that he was reading entire books by the end of the school year. Very cool! And, while we still have a journey ahead of us on this one, he did learn some valuable lessons on time management and staying on task.
|Z & his best bud, Samuel in the last day|
I was especially proud of how he was friend to all; it didn't matter if it was a girl or guy, the quiet kid that didn't talk much or another crazy, loud kiddo (like himself!). I saw so many other kiddos stick to their little groups (completely understandable at that age and limited comfort level) but Zavion just put himself out there to everyone. It really made my heart smile!
Monday, January 23, 2012
I myself am not a big pie eater (was that gasping I heard?) but my brother is a pie fiend. Like, he prefers pie to birthday cake. Crazy, I think, but hey, it's his party. I've been wanting to gift him pie for his birthday for awhile now, but being as his lives in another state and gifts have to be sent, that just didn't seem very practical. Then, last year, I discovered Our Best Bites (truly one of my favorite food sites!) and their amazing pies-in-a-jar. Aha...that was it! I just knew it! So, for his birthday this year, I whipped these bad boys up.
These are SO easy, people.
1) Dough up the inside of your jar. Use your favorite pie crust or just be lazy like me and buy the prepared crusts. Pull off chunks of dough and press them on the bottom of the jar and along the sides. If you want a topper, use the seal part of your lid to cut out a circle from the dough.
2) Make your pie filling. Use prepared pie filling or just make your own! Very easy!
Here is a basic pie recipe (about 1/2C per jar):
2 C prepared fruit (pitted, diced, peeled, etc.)
2 T sugar- brown or white (use more or less depending on sweetness of fruit)
2 T flour-(again, more if your fruit is super juicy like cherries, less if it’s pretty dry)
1 T butter (divided between the pies to go on top of the pies)
Seasonings/flavorings- cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and almond extract, citrus zest etc)
3) Fill it up. Add about ½ C filling per jar. Add your topper (cut a couple
vent holes) & crimp it down, or make a basic crumb topping to go on top instead.
Now you can freeze them, bake them or just give them away!
For the pies I sent to my brother, I baked them ahead of time (I didn't want pie
filling sloshing around and didn't want them to partially thaw on the way there).
4)Bake at 375 for about 45 min. From frozen, bake about 50-60 min.
I made blueberry (from our blueberries we picked during Summer!), apple and pumpkin (I just followed basic pumpkin pie recipe and directions, since it's a little different than other pies).
For the blueberry, I made a lattice pie crust, which I think turned out really cute.
The apple pie, I topped with a crumb topping, yum!
The pumpkin, I obviously just left alone (and this one won't need the pat of butter on top, either).
These were so much fun to make and so easy, that I decided they would make fun Christmas gifts for my son's Kindergarten teachers! He helped me make each of them an apple pie (what's more appropriate for a teacher right?) then we added some cute labels and put each one into a little gift bag. They were so impressed (one teacher had to be convinced it wasn't a candle, haha) and excited. Now, for those, I just gave them un-cooked and un-frozen and left it up to them to decide what they wanted to do. I also made a couple up for my grandma for Christmas, but froze those first. She received, blueberry, blackberry and apple.
Another fun pie idea that I did last year on Pi Day (yep, house full of geeks here, hehe) is to make pie pops!
I didn't follow any specific recipe here; just cut the pie crusts with my 3” circle cookie cutter, added about 1T pie filling (careful not to overdo it or these guys will get messy fast!) pressed a lollipop stick into the dough, then put another circle on top and crimped it down. I brushed some melted butter on, then sprinkled some sugar and voila, pie pops! After they cooled down, we added a dollop of whipped cream and they were ready!
These were a big hit with the family!
And, these little cuties came courtesy of a friend's borrowed pie maker (and,
now I have my own...thanks Mom!).
Since my daughter’s birthday party was horse themed, I thought mini pies would go along perfectly with the kind of rustic-ness of it. I decided to just swap out pies for cupcakes and loved the outcome!
And, for a regular ol' pie, this is my absolute most favorite; Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.
I make this every year for Thanksgiving and try to find any excuse to make other times of the year too. It is so rich and gooey; the perfect pie in my eyes! :)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
20 milk chocolate candy kisses, unwrapped
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 (5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 3/4 cups milk
1 (9 inch) pie shell, baked (I use the ready-made chocolate cookie pie crust)
Melt the chocolate with the whipping cream. Stir until smooth, and spread evenly over the bottom of the pie shell. Refrigerate until ready to fill; chocolate should be firm before filling.
Put the dry pudding mix and peanut butter in a heavy saucepan. Over low heat, gradually stir in the milk using a wire whisk. Stir constantly until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Cool for 15 minutes, stirring often. Pour peanut butter filling into crust. Chill several hours.
Top with whipped topping and garnish with chopped peanuts, Hershey's Kisses, Peanut Butter Cups or Reeses, if desired.
And, here are a few of my favorite pie recipes I've seen around...
This brownie pie looks so yummy!
And, how about this Grownup Pumpkin Pie Milkshake. Yes, one here, please!
Check out these mini S'mores pies! These would be so much fun for a Summertime treat, or even a fun dessert for indoor camping night (we have these every so often and they are quite popular for the kiddos-not so much the adults with bad backs though, hehe).
And, last but not least; these lattice pie cookies makes my heart go pitter pat! They are incredibly adorable and pretty simple. What a 'wow' factor they would be for a fun girls day!
So, how are you celebrating Pie Day? :)
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Okay, I really just discovered it was Natl Popcorn Day about ten minutes ago on Facebook, haha. But, that doesn’t mean there isn't time to celebrate it still!
And, who doesn't love popcorn?! Popcorn is awesome; it's buttery, salty, fluffy. It's the perfect movie food, of course, but also great for kids snacks, and even parties.
I made these fun cones for my son's 5th birthday party; it was a monster theme so I used monster scrapbook paper then filled with green-tinted caramel corn. Yum and fun!
My mom made these adorable mini popcorn ball pops for my daughter's last birthday!
Of course, a personal favorite of ours is to grab a bag while we're shopping at Target. No better bribe to get your kiddos to behave than the promise of Target popcorn, hehe!
In honor of Natl Popcorn Day, I thought I'd share some of the amazing popcorn recipes I've seen on Pinterest and my all-time favorite, personal caramel corn recipe.
This white chocolate peppermint popcorn from Our Best Bites is amazing! I actually made some myself for Christmas presents, and it was very well received. :0)
I use my basic caramel corn recipe, which produces THE best caramel corn ever, and spruce it up a little.
7 quarts plain popped popcorn (about two 3.5oz bags of microwave popcorn)
2 cups dry roasted peanuts (optional)
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1) Place the popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking pans (I use my turkey roaster pan). Add the peanuts to the popped corn if using. Set aside.
2) Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, margarine and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend. Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.
3) Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will be light and foamy. Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat. Don't worry too much at this point about getting all of the corn coated.
4) Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans, and giving them each a good stir every 15 minutes (use a long wooden spoon). Line the counter top with waxed paper. Dump the corn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces. Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers or resealable bags.
To make it into Moose Munch, just separate out some popcorn (use the big clumps) and dip in melted chocolate. Do the same with peanuts, then mix both in with the caramel corn. Voila...instant Moose Munch! Yum!
I hope you enjoy Natl Popcorn Day!! :o)
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
As I said in my previous post, my little girl was just so excited about her horsie party, I just knew I couldn't let her down! As with all my parties, the planning process starts very early. With her birthday party this year, the theme was probably changed more than I have for any other party. I was definitely set on a candy theme then changed it to a 'Sugar Plum Fairy' theme but nothing just seemed right. Finally I realized what it was. I wasn't taking Avalee into consideration; I was just doing the party I wanted. I hadn't really run into this as much with Zavion's parties, and I don't know why I was having such a hard tome with hers. I decided I needed to ask her what she really wanted. Now, I know you are laughing right now. Ask a two year old what they want for a birthday party?? You must be crazy! But, you will find that kids, even that young, have a strong opinion of what they want. And, sure enough, I no sooner asked her than she blurted out, “I want a horsie party!”
See, my little lady has loved horses every since I cam remember. We have two horses that live at the end of the street, and she practically adopted them as her own.
And, then there was getting to ride a horsie at her cousin's birthday party that I think really sealed the deal for her. ;)
So, a horsie party it was. One of the first things I do with any party, is research. I love immersing myself in everything related to my theme and just letting ideas, big and tiny, come to me. When I looked up horse/pony parties I found most had to do with farm, cowgirl or farm animals. They all had a very country feel to them, which is just not us at all. I knew I wanted something a little more modern, a little more glam.
I started out with the invitations. I saw this adorable idea on Pinterest months ago and when the theme was picked, knew it would fit perfectly!
I bought a piece of wood from Michaels (the same one used here for Zavion's Kindergarten photos) and painted it with chalkboard paint. Avalee and I raided her wardrobe and came up with the cutest outfit which she added lots of jewelry too to make it even cuter! Then I brought in the big guns...my mom's old rocking horse! This horse was made for my mom by her grandfather (my great-grandfather, Avalee's great-great...you get the point) and has been passed down the line of kids. I have very fond memories of just rocking away on that horse when I was am kid. Avalee already loves it, so was very willing to hop on and give me a little photo shoot. She did amazing (seriously, any agencies want to sign my kid??) and the photos turned out awesome I picked my favorite (hard to do!) and printed them off then added the party info to the back.
I also used one for an electronic invite for all our friends on Facebook (big money-saver there; fewer invites to print, fewer envelopes, stamps).
For the planning stage, I set up my usual list:
One of the first things I do when thinking of decorations, is to assign a color scheme. Even though I always have a theme, I find it really helps solidify things if you have colors picked out. I think it also helps get everything organized; once I pick my colors, I can go to the craft store and buy the appropriate shades/patterns of paper (or in the case of this party, I was able to just raid my growing collection of scrapbook papers, leaving me to only have to buy a few sheets of paper!). For this party, I decided on a purple (Avalee's favorite color) and brown/black color scheme. I wanted it to look girly, but also modern and simple.
And,obviously, the decorations would consist largely of horses. I decided I really wanted a garland of just horses to go in front of the mantle. Using my Cricut, I cut out horse after horse and spent hours assembling. As I was working on the garland, inspiration struck and I thought it might look really cute to add tutus on some of the horses. Using my cache of tulle, I just cut tiny pieces and stuck them on the back ends of the horses, using glue dots (a must-have for any crafter!). I tried to tuck some under others, so they fluffed up a bit and when I was done I cut some more strips in them. I loved the way they turned out but didn't love the time-consuming aspect so decided to just alternate them on the horses, adding them only to the black horses.
They ended up turning out very adorable and got a huge nod of approval from my soon-to-be-three year old (who actually 'helped' with a couple)!
For the birthday banner, I knew I was going to use some fabulous paper I had found at Michaels. It was purple wood grain and couldn't have been a more perfect fit for the theme. I was trying to figure out what I would do with it, when I had another moment of inspiration. I had been working on a Thanksgiving banner, using a free printable from this site. I had fallen in love with the shape of the banner, but unfortunately my printer ran out of ink about halfway through printing. I never got my cartridge replaced, so was left with the pieces of the banner I had already cut out, on brown textured cardstock. Just for fun, I put the purple paper on top of the other piece and instant magic! The banner had this inside border that I knew I could use to layer the purple on top of. I just printed out more of what I needed, cut them out and using a piece of vellum, I traced the inside border then cut that out and used it to cut all my purple paper. I know, it sounds like a lot of work but since I already had about a quarter of the banner cut out, it wasn't too bad. For the letter, I just used some purple sparkly paper I already had and let my Cricut do all the work there for me. I added some glue dots to everything, assembled, strung it up on jute (another must have crafting item!) and done. I also cut out a couple of big horses, the same as the garland, in the same purple and had them on each side of the banner.
I loved how it turned out and I think it is my favorite birthday banner of all time, so far. :)
Another element I knew I really wanted to incorporate into the party décor was hay. It was one of the few rustic elements I used, but even glam horses need hay, right? ;) I saw some large bales of straw at Michaels before Halloween and decided to patiently wait for them to go on clearance. In the meantime, I found some of the smaller bales of straw in the floral department I just knew I had to have! I got the next size down the the big guy to use on the mantle and the next size down from those to use on the food table (more on that later). I put the medium straw bale in the middle of the mantle and decided to add some pictures around it. I raided Avalee's room (remember, sometimes this is the best way to find decorations...look before buying!) and found the prefect purple frame. A trip to Walmart garnered me two more frames; the perfect complimentary brown and under $2 each. Then, a quick search and I found a few of my favorite Avalee photos and sent them off to Costco (another quick and easy decoration; photos, photos, photos! They're cheap, easy and very personal!). I played around with the arrangement a bit, and decided to add my most fave pic on top of the straw bale. I used the purple frame for this and the brown frames next to the bale, to offset a bit. I thought it would be cute to use the chalkboard I used for the invitations, and it fit perfectly against the straw bale. Next to those I added a couple horses that my little sister handed down to Avalee (again...totally free!).
I knew I wanted something else, so searched my house and found my stash of couple mason jars (the kids have been chowing their way through our homemade pickles!). I decided those would be cute on each end of the mantle with some flowers. Trader Joes had some beautiful bouquets with purple flowers for only $3.99, so I was set on that. I then added some submersible lights and some water beads (I picked out all the purple ones from a bunch Zavion got for his birthday) and a big 'A' to one and '3' to another (cut out with my Cricut and backed with a cereal box for support, haha).
Underneath the horse garland, across the front of the mantle, I added a banner using pictures from Avalee's invitation photo shoot. This was one of those last-minute additions (and I was literally throwing it together at about 1AM the day of the party) but it came together pretty quickly and easily.
My hubby and I brainstormed (and by that, I mean he talked me down from my big, no-way-it's-gonna-get-done idea, hehe) for something to go above the mantle and decided on this.
I was going to put the entire horse verse, but my hubby convinced me this was not very sensible. He sometimes has a point (he won't read this, so don't anybody go telling him I almost said he was right). This ended up being a very quick and easy decoration, and again, since I used what I had, free. I covered the frame in the kids' craft paper then cut out the letters on the Cricut and glued them on. As Zavion would say, “Easy peasey lemon squeezy.” ;)
In my entry ways, I added some simple balloons in the party colors (purple and brown polka dotted). I already have hooks up there (just the 3M type, but they were added for a party years ago and when we repainted, I just painted over them, so you can't even really see them anymore) so it was quick and easy.
For my door sign ( you may remember this from other posts, but I always put up a 'welcome' sign on the door. I think something nice for the guests and sets an expectation for the party), I used the Cricut to cut out a barn then added the wording to the top. I had plans to have a little picture of Avalee peeking out from the barn window but didn't get around to it.
I just noticed I have no pictures of the door sign...oops! I really need to hire a photographer for my parties!
For my food table, I again incorporated some things I already had. I used a toy barn and horse stables that used to be Zavion's and a few more horses. The small bales of straw were used to hold mini popcorn balls on a stick (thanks, Mom for making those!). I wrapped a strip of tulle around each one to give it more of that glam feel. On each end of the table I hung some latex balloons and one adorable mylar balloon. I love the look and ease of balloons! In this case, I found some adorable latex balloons that had horses printed on them. They were even the perfecthttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif color (not really any pictures of those either. Darn...where was my photographer??).
For the food, I made mini macaroni and cheese bites (found these on Pinterest and they were a huge hit!), a veggie tray and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (I used my Pampered Chef sandwich sealer to cut them). We also had the mini popcorn balls.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
And instead of cupcakes I made mini pies (big, bug thanks to my friend Brittanie at Cupcakes Kisses 'n' Crumbs for loaning me her pie-maker!)!
I also added this sign next to the pies. I made it in about 10 seconds on a site that lets you generate your own 'Keep Calm...' signs. Made it, saved it and sent it onto Costco with the other party pics. I loved how it looked and it added a nice bit of whimsy.
The birthday cake was a one-of-a-kind creation by your truly, hehe. Now, I will say I can bake pretty well and can make pretty things, but when it comes to cake decorating it's always a big fail! This time however, I was pretty proud of myself. I used more pieces of that farm set, including a horse (actually her favorite one that has a permanent home on her dresser), fence and food trough. I added some actual oats to the trough (which I think all of one person noticed, but it made me happy) and a couple little hay bales in front of the fence.
Since the toys took of most of the cake, I decided to make a cake banner (which, really, is one of my new favorite ways to jazz up a cake) by cutting diamond pieces (using that same purple woodgrain paper) and adding some purple sparkly letters (Halloween clearance at Michaels!) and stringing it on more jute.
It was supposed to say 'Happy Birthday Avalee' but I ran out of room for her name, haha.
When Avalee first said she wanted a horsie party, the first party activity I thought of was a old fashioned hay hunt. I used to love hunting for pennies in the hay at our town's annual festival, and it seemed like the perfect activity. However, it seemed like a daunting task to bring hay inside (December in Oregon=no outside activities). Then, it occurred to me that we could use the kids' sandbox! I bought a bunch of those larger bales of straw (they ended up going on clearance for $2! Let's just say we ended up with much more than we needed, haha!) and dumped it in in the sandbox that was set up in the living room. I added some mini horse toys and lots of pennies.
The kids went in a couple at a time, according to age, to hunt for their treasures. It was pretty fun and cute to watch them digging around!
The birthday girl and her bff went in first...
It became a kind of free-for-all!
I'm not sure I'll get any of the moms to bring back their kiddos to the next party though, after they ended up taking home a bunch of straw!
And, I always try to include at least one craft activity so the kids can take hone something with them. I decided on hobby horses for this one.
I knew it would have to be something simple, for all the various aged kids. I used a template of a horse head (just Googled it) and traced it (over and over!) onto white cardstock then cut them out. I also gathered up a bunch of cardboard wrapping tubes (thanks to everyone who donated!) for the stick part of the horse. I gave the kids crayons, stickers, jewels ad yarn (for the manes) to decorate their horsies. When they finished, we (adults) stapled the heads to the tubes.
They turned out great and the kids seemed to really enjoy making them!
The party girl with her finished hobby horse.
I also had some horse masks the kids could color and decorate, but I think only one kid actually did (the hobby horses took up a lot of time), lol.
I went very light on party favors, since the kids were already taking home their horses and the prizes they found from the hay hunt. I made up some trail mix (hit up the bulk section of my grocery store for all the ingredients and put it together myself), put about a cup each in cellophane bags and tied it with a ribbon.
And, there you have it! I think this was one of the least expensive parties I have thrown (I don't have any exact figures, but definitely under $100, maybe close to $50) but I didn't have to sacrifice anything.
Again, here are some of my party-planning money-saving tips:
Use what you have! You might be surprised at what you have laying around that would be perfect for you party. If you are a scrapbooker or crafter, you may have all the paper, stickers, glue, etc you need. You really can save a ton by simply checking your supplies first!
Decorate simply! You don't have to spend a fortune to make your party look nice. One of my favorite decorations are pictures. Pick out some faves and send them to your favorite printer (I like Costco, because they're cheap and fast) And, I guarantee everyone loves looking at pictures of the party gal or guy! Use two, 20 or 200; make them into a banner, put them in frames, make some posters. Be creative!
Make your own! You don't have to spend a fortune at the party store (do you know what I bought at the party store? The balloons and some clearance napkins. That's it.) buying all kids of decorations. Get out your scissors, tape and paper and make your own. Even if you don't have a Cricut, you can still make some great stuff (but, maybe check around, because you might have a friend who does have a Cricut you can borrow or even trade services!) by hand or using your computer. Raid your kids' coloring books and reading books for pictures you can use. The decorations are so much more personal when they're done with love, by hand. And, of course cheaper!
Do it at home! It really is so much cheaper to host a party in your own home. Renting a place is expensive, plus you usually have to add food into that too (pizza, etc). You can also control everything much better in your own environment. If you can have it at home, do it!
And, finally a word to those people who scoff at my attention to detail when it comes to planning my kids' parties. People will often hint, or downright say, that I'm going overboard. They say it's silly to plan parties like this for kids because they can't remember them later or that they really couldn't care less. To them I say, look at my girl.
She is happy. That's it. It's all that matters to me.
I don't spend a fortune on my parties, and in fact, I've just shown how you can save money. I do put a lot of time into them, but I also put a lot of love too. It's personal to me and I consider my kids in every aspect of my planning (from how may people to invite so they don't get overwhelmed to food appropriate to eat for them and their similar-aged friends).
Will she remember her 3rd horsie party in five, ten, 25 years? Probably not. But, she can look back on those pictures and say, “Wow, I looked really happy. I looked like I was having fun.” And, I'll tell her, “You were. You did.” :)
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