1.16.2014

Lucy's Fancy Flower Party

The first, and pretty much only, birthday party I can remember from my childhood is my 5th. I had a pink Barbie party at the park with all of my friends. Besides flying off the merry-go-round and landing on a tree stump, it was the most magical party of my adolescence. Or maybe ever. There is just something about that age. You are finally old enough to remember it after, but not too old to have ridiculous expectations or worry too much about anything, really. So for Lucy's 5th birthday party this year, I wanted to make it special.

She wanted it to be fancy and she wanted flowers and didn't want ANY boys there. We were lacking time and the budget to do all that I really wanted, but I feel good about what we pulled off in pretty much 24 hours and Lucy said more than once, "This is the best day of my life,"so I think we can call it a success.

In fact, it was so fun that I didn't even have time to bawl my eyes out at the fact that my baby girl is now five. She was such a sweet hostess and clearly wanted to prove to everyone that she was indeed a year older. She gave hugs and dramatic thank you's after opening each gift and straightened her dress and smoothed her hair more than once that day. I am so proud of her and her beautiful, creative spirit and all that she is becoming. Although I must admit, I hope the "becoming" part comes a little more slowly from here on out.

To save money and time, I emailed the invitation, which I made with some clipart I purchased a while ago from my favorite clipart shop Ink Nest


Jared and I emptied out our office he'd just renovated next to our house and it proved to be the perfect party room. Jared also made the table and benches at the last minute from cheap lumber at Lowe's (costing a total of $90 for all three pieces), which worked perfectly and will be nice to have for future events.


I spent $20 on tissue paper, and only used half of it, and then used it to make a simplified version of Oh Happy Day's party hat and Design Sponge's giant flowers tutorial, of course inspired by Brittany Jepsen's paper flowers. I wanted to have them crawling up the walls on paper vines, but, again, there was no time so I made them into one garland with tire wire.


My favorite last-minute project was using some gold spray paint I had around to paint the hideous, orange Home Depot bucket we had to hold the flowers five minutes before our guests arrived. 


I then found a local flower mart and spent $50 on the most colorful, fancy flowers I could find (I must admit I saved the ranunculus for myself). We bought a 12 pack of large mason jars for vases. We used the flower arrangements as party favors for the girls to bring home so I wouldn't have to make a separate goody bag. 
 


Our little barn room was full of the sweet sounds of the laughter of little girls along with flowers and fancy dresses flying with sunlight reflecting everywhere. 
It was maybe the prettiest thing I've ever seen. 


For food, I kept it simple, pb&j triangles, fruit skewers, and we had a local donut shop make us a dozen pink sprinkle donuts. All of the other snacks I purchased at Costco and made sure they were things that wouldn't go bad quickly so we could keep them as snacks after the party. Glad I did since these little girls were too excited to really eat.  





My dear friend Eleanor even showed up in a fancy dress and she was my right hand gal along with my girl Andrea for the whole party. So lucky to have so many great girlfriends and an amazing 12 year-old niece who is always so helpful and sweet.


I made a white cake from Joy of Baking with a bundt pan to make it look like a flower with buttercream frosting, pearl sprinkles and decorated with some of our flowers for arranging. I'll be honest, upside down cake is not as good. I learned that there is a reason that the frosting is usually spread on the top, soft part of a cake. Luckily, 5-year olds don't really notice those details. 



 The only thing I had absolutely no time for was getting my large and in charge, pregnant-self ready.
Next year??

12.11.2013

WUKA time + a discount

In case you haven't already noticed, I have a relatively moderate to extreme obsession with early childhood education. I'm tempted by every new book and activity set that comes out, especially the ones that encourage independent play (wink, wink). Unfortunately, I have found that most of the stuff out there is junk. It's cheap, it's not well thought-out, and it's ugly.

wūka™is the absolute opposite of everything I just described.

When wūka™ approached me about trying out their new activity books, I excitedly jumped on board. The squares (pages) are made of such high quality materials and I am in love with their link technology that pieces them together. It makes it so you can purchase squares as you go and, most importantly for those with multiple little ones, you can easily disassemble the squares so both of your kids can play at the same time.

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Lucy and Solomon have LOVED playing with our wūka™. I decided to only take it out during our "school" time or for church so it makes it extra special. Lucy learned to braid from this Rapunzel square in literally less than ten minutes. I love that she's learning a skill while playing.

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Their next favorite was definitely the Bundled Up square. They stayed on this one learning how to work the buttons, zipper, and snaps for a solid fifteen minutes on multiple occasions.

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Solomon's favorite is the Pack It In square with the snaps. We have two other squares: Knot a Problem and Tick Tock, both of which are SO perfect for learning to tie a shoe and telling time (and I've looked all over for good teaching tools for those skills).

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Thanks so much to our friends at wūka™ for letting us be some of the first to play with these amazing activity books! Can't wait to get Peek-a-Boo Bear for our little one on the way.
wūka™ IS GIVING OUR READERS 10% OFF YOUR PURCHASE WITH THE CODE: wukaelle. It's perfect for a Christmas or birthday gift for your little ones, or a gift for yourself for your next day at church. :) Don't forget to show this new business a little love on their Facebook page.

12.09.2013

Tree Decorating with Kids

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Between our move and pregnancy brain, I lost all of our Christmas decorations. Instead of purchasing all new ones, I decided to wing it by making some salt-dough ornaments and a felt ball garland with Lucy and Solomon.

Turns out, this was the best idea I've had in a while and it was simple enough that my little ones, even though they're only 2 and 4, were able to help with almost every step. I found this especially delightful since I usually just pretend to have them help on my craft projects. :)

For the ornaments, we used this salt dough recipe:

1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup water

Knead until formed, roll out and use cookie cutters to create shapes, and then bake at 200 degrees for 3 hours or until hard.

To paint, we used Martha Stewart's Glitter Acrylic Paints and all but the red worked perfectly. I loved the greens, blues, and silvers because it doesn't matter how thick or uneven the coat, they still look pretty. I waited 24 hours after making the dough to paint.

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The felt balls took a lot more time for me to finish after they started forming the balls, but it was really fun. Next time I think I'll just buy them from Hello Maypole and string them with the kids, though, as it's cheaper and then you get uniform balls, but it was a fun project.

It took about twenty before I got the hang of it (as you can see I started with the white roving). The kids would help roll them into balls and then I took it over from there. They also picked the color pattern for the garland.

Directions to make the felt balls here and here and my favorite video here.

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$30 and here is our sweet, little tree! Now for a tree skirt...

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12.05.2013

Catching Up.

Stomach flu(s), Thanksgiving, out of town visitors, afternoons at the beach, Black Friday sales, a visit to the ER, spoon whittling, the search for the perfect Christmas tree and the box with all of our Christmas decorations, Solly Baby Birthday, and winter s'mores in the backyard. It's been a perfectly crazy few weeks.


11.18.2013

Solly Baby Birthday

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It's Solly Baby's second birthday and we want to celebrate all of our amazing friends (read: YOU) that have supported us! I keep most of our Solly Baby posts over on our SB blog now, but this one belongs here as well since this is the place Solly Baby started. I am especially grateful for all the encouragement I received here as I was starting a new business with a FT student husband, a toddler, and a new baby. It has meant more than you'll ever know. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Read more, enter to win, and get your promo code here.

11.14.2013

Little House: Bits + Pieces

It's nothing that fancy, but I took a few photos around our home the other day and thought I'd share some of my favorite little spaces (because every space in our home is "little").

Can't wait to do more in the coming months. For the past few months we've been focusing on a remodel of our garage/shed/barn into an office. It's almost done and Jared did an incredible job on it. We'll be having quite a few holiday dinners in it so I'm sure you'll see every nook and cranny in the next few weeks.

A few bits + pieces notes:

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:: We've displayed Lucy + Solomon's books like this for quite a while ($20 picture ledges from IKEA), but it never ceases to amaze me how much more time they spend reading since we made this change. bunk-beds-2
:: The kids' bunkbeds have been invaluable for our small space. Lucy loves her top bunk and Solomon's bed is on the ground of the lower bunk. It's a Montessori principle that we adopted a few years ago that has really helped both of them (Lucy's used to be on the ground as well) feel more independent and in control of their environment. raindrops
:: Walls By Mur  raindrop decals - since it never rains here.
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:: Lucy's little makeshift desk (which is a long table that extends to my workspace as well) has been my favorite recent addition. She will sit and draw for hours and hours. I think because it's next to my work space, it makes her feel like her projects are more important. Whatever it is, I like it. As you can see, we haven't finished the desk or put real legs on it, but I kind of like the ruggedness of it for now. The little shelf attachment was $2 at IKEA and worth it's weight in gold. wall-hanging
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woodframe

***Would love to hear any of your space-saving ideas as I am quickly running out of them!

11.07.2013

Make It: Twiggy Books

We've been doing preschool solely at home this year, which has become a great excuse to do all the simple crafting projects my nerdy, 1st grade teacher heart has ever desired. Making these twiggy books has been my favorite lately and so simple that I had to share.

Lucy spends anywhere from 3-6 hours each day drawing so we're constantly running out of notebooks and everywhere I go, I find scraps of paper with doodles on them. I've looked up a few ways of making simple drawing books for kids, but this has been my favorite so far. It comes from this amazing book called Playful Learning.

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It's so easy that step-by-step instructions are pretty unnecessary but, for those who are into the details, below are the materials needed:

:: 1-2 sheets card stock (depending on the size of book you are making)
:: 6-10 sheets copy paper (you could also use writing paper, construction paper, story paper, etc.)
:: hole punch
:: 2 rubber bands (#33 bands are a great size for most projects)
:: Gather 1 twig cut down to the size of length of paper (great time to take a little nature hike with your little ones + talk about types of trees)

Cut the card stock and paper down to the size you want. Punch two holes about 1/4" in from edge of paper. Cut twig down to size (we have wild bamboo growing all around our house that has worked beautifully) and wrap one rubber band around the top of the twig and through the hole and then back through the other hole and around the opposite end of the twig. I do this twice for extra sturdiness.

That's all!

I think these are great for doodles, stories, and nature observation. I am hoping to make a big stack of little books for Thanksgiving table settings with a little pencil alongside. Before dinner starts it would be neat to have everyone take a minute to write down the things they are grateful for, the little kids can draw pictures of their list if they can't write, and then share a few aloud.

Happy twig gathering!

10.29.2013

Seven Years

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Photo credit: Yan Photo

Last Saturday Jared and I celebrated seven years together. I always get pretty nostalgic on days like that, thinking about how much we've changed and how lucky we are that we are both still crazy about each other and all the reasons that I love him.

I thought of a new reason, brought on by a recent experience, that's pretty personal, but it's such a testament to who Jared is that I had to write it out. Although posts that include stories of Jared crying are not his favorite, he always comes off looking pretty great so he's quite tolerant.

A few months ago, we were on a long drive together (sans kids, amazingly enough) and we somehow got on the topic of divorce. Mostly about how far-reaching and long-lasting the effects are for everyone involved. As we talked I suddenly remembered an experience from the day after my parents told me they were splitting up. It had been so long and I'd never retold the story so I was surprised by the vividness in which it came back to me. As I recalled it, I shared it with Jared.  

I was ten and didn't really know what to think about the announcement so I just felt numb. I went to school the next day, which seemed so odd to go on like normal, given that my whole world was turning upside down, and realized I'd forgotten my math folder. I was a pretty stellar student then, so when my stern but warm, Pentecostal, math teacher called me up to her desk, I was shaking. I can still remember walking up to her huge bun, high bangs, and floor-length denim skirt.

She asked why I didn't have my folder. I just looked into her kind eyes and fell to pieces. The numbness gave way to sadness and in between sobs all I could say was, "My parents are getting divorced." It was the first time I'd said it out loud.

She wrapped her arms around me and I cried. A moment later she told me it was okay, that I could share folders with another student, and to return to my seat. I covered my face so my classmates wouldn't see my tear-stained cheeks.

I recalled the story with only a little emotion while looking out of the passenger window. Even though the memory was fresh, most of those wounds healed so long ago that I was able to tell it without reliving it.

I was surprised when I finally glanced over at Jared to see him gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles to keep from outright weeping. He looked at me and softly said, "Elle, that's so sad. You were just a little girl." And then he grabbed my hand and held it.

That's what marriage is to me. Vulnerability, open hearts, trust, total love that gives way to healing and more love.

Here's to another seven, or seventy, years of this.