Archives For Entertaining

I knew that having drink dispensers that closed for travel would be the easiest way to transport beverages to Jack’s splashpad birthday party, but dang those things are expensive! I searched high and low, unwilling to pay upwards of $20 each for something I might use once a year, and was thrilled when I finally found these for only $10 each at Target. I could have used them on their own just fine, but they would have had to sit at the edge of the table so that folks could fill their cups and that just felt awkward to me.

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I wanted to find a way to raise them up a few inches if possible. I couldn’t find any drinks stands that had the look I wanted and were worth the money so I started looking for everyday objects that might be repurposed. I really only needed something about 3″ high to accommodate the small cups we were using but whatever it was had to be pretty sturdy. Enter this wood box from the craft store! I think it was about $11 with a coupon. I totally laughed when I saw the text on it, though. I feel like Pinterest has taken our collective penchant for decor that states the obvious a little too far.

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To cover up the text, I painted the center slat kelly green. I was originally planning to stain the rest of it but that one colorful slat looked a little off so I painted the others navy and white. These are the same colors used in Jack’s room and in varying degrees throughout our home so I knew I could repurpose it to store toys or books after the party without having to repaint. I stained the remaining sides and bottom. I was going to stain the inside as well, but after some green paint dripped I painted it green. The green interior is my only regret.

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For the party, we just flipped it over to use as a platform! It was a little breezy that day so we tucked the napkins between the slats to help them stay put. I was a little worried about how the thin wood would hold up to all that weight and moisture from condensation but it did fine.

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The box is currently corralling cleaning rags in my laundry room, but the colors are so great that I think I will eventually just add some felt pads to the bottom and put it in Jack’s room. I might get another one just like it to paint yellow for the laundry room, though!

In celebration of Jack’s second birthday we had a small party at the splash pad near our house on Saturday. We kept the guest list much shorter this year and made things easy on ourselves by ordering pizza.

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We considered having it at our house, but Jack loves visiting the splash pad so much that it was an obvious choice. Getting everything to the splash pad and back home again posed a logistical challenge but it forced us to keep things low key and was still less stressful than hosting it at home.

033 Fuse (570x380) I filled some inexpensive beverage containers from Target with homemade lemonade and ice water–more on the beverage stand tomorrow. The iced tea was a last minute decision and the pitcher was only half full because I needed a spill-proof way to transport it and that amount filled the largest lidded jar that I had. I should have filled the pitcher with ice, the jar with water, and used the second beverage dispenser for tea. Live and learn. The tablecloth is just a twin sized flat sheet draped over a folding table. 005 (570x381) Although pizza was the main event, I also brought some fresh fruit and spinach dip. I didn’t have a shatterproof bowl large enough for the watermelon so I hollowed out the watermelon itself. I just took a small slice off the bottom to help it sit flat, then cut off the top third and cubed up the insides. Once I had most of the fruit removed I scraped out the rest to make a nice bowl. The tablecloth is a large canvas dropcloth that I already had. It’s been washed so many times that it’s amazingly soft. Everything on the table got squished over to the right once the pizza arrived. It’s also worth noting that we set up a folding canopy over the two tables–the cake was melting towards the end even in the shade! 007 (570x381) My sister is an amazing baker and did a great job with the cake. She knows I don’t like themed parties but couldn’t resist the temptation to incorporate one of Jack’s favorite things–Sesame Street. He LOVED seeing Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Big Bird on his cake. The characters around the perimeter are actually plastic rings. For older kids they could double as party favors but we set them aside after we saw Jack put one entirely into his mouth. 019 (570x375) We’d practiced blowing out candles a few times recently so Jack knew what to do! He thinks it’s fun. 059 (382x570) The cake was strawberry with Swiss meringue buttercream icing–yum! Folks brought towels and folding chairs and sat down to eat wherever they felt comfortable. It was very relaxed. 079 (570x380) I didn’t manage to get a picture of it until after the party, but I spent about $20 on enough buckets, balls, etc. for all the kids to enjoy, plus any others that happened to be playing at the splash pad that day. Normally it really bugs me when people bring toys to the playground or splash pad because my kid wants to play with them and it gets awkward, so I made sure to tell other parents that their kids were free to play with them and even bring them home. I intentionally bought a bunch because I figured they could double as favors and we still brought more home than we know what to do with. 011 (570x380) All together we spent right around $200, including $25 on a gift–Jack’s really into trucks right now so we got him this with some small things we knew he’d love, like bubbles and an Elmo cup, in the back. To save money I designed the invites myself and then emailed/texted them out instead of having them printed and mailed, bought napkins and cups at the dollar store, used things I already had whenever possible, and kept the guest list short–just kids we play with regularly and immediate family. I also found lots of things inexpensively in the Target dollar spot and summer sections and most of them are things I can use again for future parties. We probably could have saved quite a bit by serving homemade sandwiches instead of pizza, so that’s something to consider for next time. 114 (2) (380x570) You can read about Jack’s first birthday party here. I’ve got to say that after this experience I’m pretty much sold on hosting parties away from home. An hour before the party we were just chilling on the couch, everything packed up and ready to go as soon as it was time. The only thing I didn’t plan well enough was the cleanup. I’d brought two small trash bins but they weren’t nearly big enough–next time I’ll bring a couple of large garbage bags to get everything home, including stuff like towels and tablecloths that aren’t getting thrown away but aren’t worth folding neatly for transport, either. I also forgot ice, even though I’d meant to buy a bag of it on our way over, but my sister’s teenage stepson saved the day by begging some from the golf pro shop adjacent to the splash pad. We are really lucky to have a place like this so close to home, but even if you don’t maybe you can repurpose some of the ideas used here–like sticking to simple colors instead of a theme so that you can be more flexible and reuse items in the future, or resisting the urge to invite everyone you know. It was so much more relaxed having a smaller crowd. We had such a good time that I wish we could do it again sooner than next year!

Last Saturday was Jack’s first birthday. It was kind of a big deal for us, obviously. First birthdays are definitely as much about the parents as they are the babies. That first year is so intense and emotional and demanding–marking the end of it is part sigh of relief, part mourning the tiny newborn that grew so fast, part celebration of the toddler your baby has become.

Anyway, we wanted to have a small party at our house with friends and family. We kept it simple with a cold lunch, cupcakes, and easy decorations (not pictured below: the cheese plate I forgot to pull out of the fridge until later). I used mostly white ceramic dishware I already had and scattered a bunch of tissue paper confetti around the table. I made things easy on myself with disposable plates and forks, but at least I opted for the recycled content plates for a few cents more.

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I covered the table with a canvas painter’s dropcloth (the same one that I keep folded up on the back of the couch in the playroom/office), and just tossed a tea towel over a cardboard box to make a little stand for the cupcakes. My sister cut off part of a foil muffin pan to make a little pedestal for the birthday boy’s cupcake to sit slightly above the rest.

easy cupcake stand

The only other decoration was this fun photo garland. I forgot to take a picture of it before the party but it was still up the next morning. I got a bunch of pictures printed at CVS and hung them up in chronological order with some clothespins and string. I actually printed 64 pictures total but only 24 went up on the garland. After the party I put them all into an album–I didn’t keep a baby book but this is almost as good. The album I bought* has enough space that I can do this for the next two years and by Jack’s third birthday I’ll have an album of his baby/toddler years from beginning to end (that’s the album sitting on the ledge there).

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Jack seemed to have a really good time visiting with all his baby friends, not to mention the doting grandparents. I think he knew it was his party.

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My sister made the cupcakes–pineapple carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting (and all of it sweetened with agave instead of sugar). I printed out the “1″ circle from here and glued it onto a bamboo skewer to make Jack’s cupcake a little extra special.

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I’d say he was a fan! I was too. Those cupcakes were delicious for something so healthy. I’ll link to the recipe below.

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Friends with older babies tipped us off that opening presents usually does not go well with a room full of toddlers, so we waited until there were just a few family members and close friends lingering and helping clean up before tearing into the gifts. By then the birthday boy had been stripped out of his cake-covered outfit and he and his two baby BFF’s had fun playing with his new toys. I made sure to jot down who gave us what so I could send a thank you note to all the folks who weren’t there to see us open their gifts.

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My mom’s side of the family always gets together for the Fourth of July so we held off to celebrate with them on the holiday instead of asking them to drive over an hour for the party at our house. It was kind of up in the air yesterday what we were going to do because my grandpa was in the hospital, but my parents ended up hosting everyone at their house and we had so much fun. We took some time out from celebrating America to pull out an angel food cake with whipped cream and fruit and sing Jack happy birthday. I think he is really liking this birthday business–he gets to eat cake! He got some more cool toys and cute clothes and was spoiled with hugs and kisses and cuddles all around.

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In case you’ve got a kids’ party of your own coming up and are at a loss for what to serve, here’s our menu:

  • Finger sandwiches (turkey, ham, roast beef, and egg salad on white and wheat bread). An electric knife borrowed from my sister made these easy to make ourselves and the egg salad (cheaper than lunch meat) helped stretch our budget while also providing an option for our friends who don’t eat meat.
  • Potato salad made by Nick’s mom
  • Guacamole with tortilla chips
  • Hummus with cut veggies (carrots, cucumber, celery, snap peas, and broccoli) and pita bread
  • Cubed cheddar, monterey jack, and pepper jack cheese
  • Fruit kabobs–chopped kiwi, strawberries, cantaloupe, and blueberries on bamboo skewers that I arranged in a glass cylinder vase
  • Carrot and pineapple cupcakes with cream cheese icing
  • Tea punch, soft drinks, beer, and ice water to drink

Altogether we spent about $150. Not bad, I think! Everything was going smoothly until half of the guests fell violently ill the next day. Apparently I was carrying some sort of stomach virus that I passed onto almost everybody through the food I’d lovingly prepared. At least one person from each family got sick on Sunday, and the rest of them caught it from each other in the following days. I felt so terrible! Next time I cook for a crowd I’ll be scrubbing my arms up to my elbows like a surgeon for fear of getting everyone sick again.

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This week is ca-razy. We were out of town last weekend which always throws me off and Jack’s birthday is this coming weekend and between all that MY FRIEND CASSIE HAD HER BABY!!! Little baby Olive was five weeks early and has needed some help adjusting to the world via the NICU. I’ve been busy fretting and ooohing and ahhhing at pictures and trying to help however I can. She was born on Sunday but I wanted to wait until Cassie and Nic had a free moment to put it on facebook before mentioning it on my blog. I wish I could show you pictures of her beautiful face but out of respect for their privacy I’ll wait until they make those pictures public themselves. Suffice to say that even though I have yet to meet her in the flesh I am absolutely smitten, and so proud of my dear friend for weathering a difficult situation with strength and grace (and Grace just happens to be little Olive’s middle name, fittingly). Gosh they are just an amazing little family.

So anyway, Jack’s birthday is on Saturday and we are halfheartedly preparing. The house is a mess and I haven’t bought any food, but something tells me it’ll all come together just fine because the really important thing is that my baby is turning one. I can’t believe it. We’re keeping the decorations simple, but I had an idea to bring in a little color for the food table with some oversized confetti cut from tissue paper. I started with this value pack of multicolored tissue paper I got for $5 at CVS.

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I pulled out several shades of green, blue, and yellow and lined them all up as neatly as I could.

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Then I just used this little circle punch I already had to start cutting big pieces of confetti.

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It was easy to just cut off the scraps and start a new row, working my way across the sheet. I dropped the confetti pieces into an empty wipes container as I went.

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How cute will these be scattered about on the food table?

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I also really like the idea of using decoupage to affix these to a canvas or piece of scrap wood or something to create some fun and modern art that’s perfect for a nursery or a particularly young feeling grown-up room. And I think the $5 price tag was totally reasonable for adorable oversized confetti in my choice of colors, plus I’ve got a ton of tissue paper left over for stuffing gift bags or using in other projects. I might even use some leftover confetti to make some art for my laundry room–the colors are perfect.

So that’s it for today y’all. I’m off to clean house and make groceries! Thanks for reading!

ps also I forgot to mention yesterday–I’m now a part of the BlogHer publishing network! This is just another way for me to try to justify my blogging habit by making a little income. You see that ad on the sidebar to the right? I totally earned 59 cents yesterday because of it. Yay money! My sponsors’ ads are still there as well, they’re just a little further down the sidebar. If you’re interested in joining them you can get all the details here!