Archive for the ‘family stuff’ Category

Off my plate: birthday cupcakes

October 14, 2012

Birthdays are fun. Well, if you’re getting presents. Or eating cake. Or playing games. But planning them, cleaning for them, making everything can be a pain. And the mommy blog world & pinterest doesn’t always help, with their perfect photos and drapes that match the party decorations. Really, who has time for that? Things 1&2’s birthdays come at the end of summer and beginning of the school year. Their birthdays fall during the busiest time of the year for us, with the start of fall soccer season, school, and a very busy season at work for The Cat and me.

Last year we had a great combined birthday in between the dates to accommodate The Cat’s navy deployment schedule. I did a lot of extra work to make matching everything, but with the wind (and my forgetting to take pictures), not many people noticed. But we still all had a fantastic time. So I decided to take inspiration — but not guilt — from Pinterest this year. I was going to tone down the party planning to relieve some of the pressure.

Thing 1 was heading into second grade just after her 7th birthday. For the first time we let her invite friends over to our house for her party. I hate housekeeping, so getting ready for that is always a pain. I let her pick from a few themes I thought we could support easily. She choose an art party. No problem. This was my favorite offering. Projects to make and take instead of games and favors. Little to no decoration was needed besides brightly colored Dollar Tree tablecloths covering art surfaces. And, since our weather in August is fairly nice, we’d do much of it outdoors.

The only thing left to decide on was the cake. Some years I’m rather lazy and we just buy a cake from the store. After all, you can’t really do cake ahead of time, and there are just so many things that could go wrong — and usually do for me. But in addition to paring down my party expectations, I was also trying to pare down party expenses. So I decided to make cupcakes. But that part of me that strives to be Supermom couldn’t let it go at that, they had to be decorated nicely. Yes, I could let go of table centerpieces and personalized goody bags, but plain cupcakes just went to far. I went shopping for cute liners, cake mix and a can of frosting (yes, I really was slacking on this one, eh?), and found Cake Mate Writing Icing in classic colors. Perfect for an idea brewing in my head. So, I baked and frosted a batch and — after a quick photo session with the birthday girl — turned them over to Thing 1, who very nicely included her brother. They decorated them together. I think the result was pretty cool, especially with the photo mounted on a clear acrylic cupcake topper and the silicone footed baking cups. And it took no yelling from me for the kids to behave while I slaved away for their party. That puts them in competition for best cupcakes ever.

art cupcakes

The bar had been set. When Thing 2’s fifth birthday rolled around a month later, I had to include him in party preparations. He really wanted a video game party with his three local cousins. And his sister, I had to remind him. That was a bummer, because we only had 4 controllers, but he agreed to let her partake in the festivities. There were plenty of incredible video game cupcake ideas online, but I had to remember that I’d have a pre-K boy helping me. While browsing Pinterest, I came across this one I had previously pinned as a Halloween idea. Monsters, video games…close enough, right? Thing 2 thought so. So, again, I baked (in a great selection of new foil lined wrappers from Wilton and Reynolds) and frosted and he sugared and drew and placed eyes. The results, cute as a…monster.

monster cupcakesBoth parties were a lot of fun. And the cupcakes were universally praised as cute and very nummy. And I felt so much less stress that I remembered to take some photos. Looks like we could be entering into the era of a new tradition. Lazy mom parties. This is one I think I can keep up with.


Back to school, back to blogging

September 5, 2012

I guess I took the summer off from blogging. The spring too, if you look at the date of the last post. It’s not that I haven’t been doing fantastic things I’d love to blog about. It’s more that I’ve been so busy doing fantastic things that I haven’t had time to blog. That and I’m lazy. But I’m sure that’s a secondary reason. Pretty sure, anyway.

So what have we been busy doing? Well, we started hiking with the kids. Which, in reality, means that we went out 2-3 days this summer and hiked — sometimes driving hours for that perfect view (and lots of DVD time in the car).  Still, that’s 2-3 days I couldn’t blog, plus a few more because I was fiddling with Photoshop actions, which I discovered this summer. Why, yes, you can see the results of both:

No, my camera can’t actually capture that blue of the mountains. But Lovely & Ethereal and Boost actions from Pioneer Woman can.

We also did a lot of sports. Thing 1 tried basketball in the spring. She surprised everyone (herself included) by making 2 baskets during the season. Not bad for a first grader. And, of course, soccer. I may not have mentioned it, but I’ve been part of a soccer family for over 30 years. And so my husband and kids are stuck being part of a soccer family, too. Things 1&2 are a little small to travel to tournaments every weekend (thank goodness!), but we still had practices and mini Wednesday tournaments every week. Some weeks the kids liked it:

and some weeks, not so much:

But even though they don’t always want to play, they always want to socialize. This was our first real summer full of playdates. Here, there, everywhere. Playdates don’t lend themselves well to blogging time. But the kids do enjoy them.

Yes, there have been other things. The Cat is on shore duty, so hanging out with him is up near the top of the list. Oh, there are plenty of other things up there too: work, crafts, cleaning, landscaping…the list goes on. But today the school bell rang the death knell of summer.

Which marks a whole new list of things I need to get to. Hopefully, blogging will make it to the top of that list occasionally.

Hump day crafts: Angry birds for the kids

March 7, 2012

Things 1 & 2 are addicted to Angry Birds. If a stranger said he had an iPad with that game on it, they would go anywhere with him. I blame G’ma and her new iPad she got for Christmas. It has a great cover with stand, so the kids frequently get to play on it when they visit.

At home, they don’t get to play so much, since I am not as willing to hand them my small, easily misplace-able iPod. But they still whine for it. So, when I want to get the kids off electronic devices, what do I do? Turn to the internet, of course. Make and Takes came to the rescue with Angry Birds pom poms. Hooray! The kids loved them. They don’t play with them as long as they do on the iPad, but that’s understandable, if disappointing. I guess we are in the 21st century after all, so I better get used to my kids wanting to zombie out in front of screens whenever they can. (Sigh.) As long as I can teach them to stay away from strangers with Angry Birds at least I’ll be doing a little part of my parenting job.

And now, photos from Thing 2’s lo-tech Angry Birds game:

  Setting up the game. He did not want my help or suggestions on how to set up the cups and craft/popsicle sticks.

Direct hit!

Happy crafting!

Food Friday: Christmas goodies

December 23, 2011

I love Christmas for a lot of reasons: buying presents, getting presents, decorating, happy people, and, near the top of the list, baking and eating Christmas goodies. Yum, yum, yum!

This year, at 4 and 6, Things 1 & 2 were finally old enough I didn’t mind them helping out in the kitchen. We started out with snickerdoodles:

Unfortunately, I used the Joy of Cooking recipe, and it uses so much butter that they melted off the side of the baking stones. Refrigeration helped some, but I ended up later adding flour and what-not to bring it in line with my BHG cookbook recipe. That worked. Hooray for cookie number one finally working out!

I made a few other things: my own version of Festive Winter Bark with cranberries and pistachios in white chocolate for holiday colored bark; chocolate bark; gingersnaps; chex mix; muddy buddies; and I can’t remember what else, because my mom and I share what we make, so I forget what I did and what she did. I just remember what I else I’ve been eating: fudge, peanut butter kiss cookies, krumkake, swedish teacakes…the list goes on. In fact, tonight the kids made a new one we found somewhere online: candy cane coated pretzels. We dipped twisted pretzels in almond bark (chocolate and vanilla) and then crushed candy canes:

This was the perfect thing for them to help with from start to finish, plus they were delicious! Love the sweet, salty, minty thing these have going on.

I better get going on other Christmas things. Happy holidays!

Hump day crafts: circus birthday and photo booth

November 16, 2011

We combined Thing 1 & 2’s birthdays this year — at least for our public party. We wanted to postpone T1’s until The Cat’s submarine got back, and by then it just seemed easier to throw one big party. Easier, ha! I always think these things are going to be simple, but they just have a way of snowballing out of control.

We started with a carnival/circus theme. This was all because we had one bean bag throw game with a clown on it. Such humble beginnings. It ended up being a mini-midway full of games, a photo booth (complete with clown wig), plus a park full of activities. Not to mention the food and decorations.

Our photo booth was popular, even though it was too windy to put up the photo background. People who didn’t care just sat in front of the presents and others moved in front of the trees. We just left a basket of props and Thing 1’s camera on the table, and it was a help yourself activity. The photos that came out of that are my favorite of the day.

carnival photo booth

Another surprise hit were the balloons. First we got out the rocket balloons. Those are too cool. I highly recommend them for outdoor parties, as long as you have a volunteer to keep pumping them up. We had a teenage boy who patiently pumped while all the younger kids ran like crazy to catch them on their way down. Lots of fun for the preschool through primary grades crowd. We also had balloon sculptures. Nothing fancy. I bought the supplies (balloons and a pump) and printed lots of instructions. I practiced making 1-2 things so I could do it or teach someone else. To my great surprise, one of the families was very skilled at making hats, flowers and what-nots with the balloons. And they were more than happy to help. Hooray! This was a big hit for the kids and the adults who wanted to learn simple balloon sculptures.

We also had face painting, thanks to my sister’s tireless help. Well, I guess she did get tired, but it was time to shut down that booth anyway. Each kid only has so many public cheeks you can paint.

carnival party fun

Besides those ongoing activities, we had a midway full of carnival games. For this, I am eternally grateful to my brother-in-law. While I was trying to set up everything, he asked what he could do to help. Silly boy. I assigned him the games. We had a ball toss, with a clown board with holes, a spin the wheel, and knock down the milk bottles (actually water bottles). He did great at organizing them. And the kids got to win the prizes that filled their goody bags.

Of course, being the busy birthday mom, I didn’t get all the pictures I wanted to of my creations. Like all the circus themed signs for the food and tables. And the cake pops — my first try. They were red, white and blue with red and blue sugar sprinkles. Actually, those probably didn’t actually look that great up close, but from afar they looked cool, and they tasted great!  These were my inspiration.

The cake pops, kettle corn, apple slices, chips, and cupcake cake from Safeway weren’t going to be enough (we had 60-70 people stop by!), so we also picked up cupcakes from Safeway — in our circus colors, of course. I had made these picks to add to the extra cupcakes, with a little help from SVGShop over at MyGrafico. (Hint: sign up for emails about sales.) And, yes, some joker did stick them in the ground when they were done with their cupcakes.

carnival cupcake toppers

This was an extremely fun party. And I had so-so-so-SO much help from friends and family once we got to the park that the day was easier than I dreamed. I hope they all enjoyed themselves as much as I did.

Happy crafting!

(note: although this was published in Oct 2012, I kept the original 2011 publish date, since I had just let it languish in drafts until I collaged some photos.)

Hump day crafts: Halloween party

November 2, 2011

It’s hard not to love Halloween. Candy, alter egos, and scaring the be-jesus out of people is all at least a little bit fun. We don’t generally go all out here, but we have a little bit of fun. This year, for the first time ever, we decided to have a Halloween party. Well, kind of. It was actually just a get together eating junk, making crafts, singing and dancing. Two get togethers. We had an afternoon one for Thing 1’s friends and an evening ‘party’ for family.

Cleaning my house is not my favorite thing to do, so I tried to set it up so we could mostly corral friends in the combined craft/play room. To set the mood, I made an entryway decoration:

I took half of a DollarTree table cloth (the other half was covering our play table to convert it to a craft table) and some black Contact paper, cut with my Cricut, of course. After applying the vinyl, I took my scissors and cut some strips, so people could walk through the door easily.

The kids did make plenty of crafts, although I was so busy running the party, I didn’t get much for photos. We did a pumpkin bookmark:

I cut the pumpkin on the Cricut, added some ribbon and let them decorate them as they pleased. (This one was my example.) We also did yarn ghost pencil toppers (based loosely on these). Oh, and sugar cookies. You just gotta decorate sugar cookies when celebrating a holiday. I’m just happy Thing 1 & 2 are getting to the age where they can participate. I was getting tired of decorating and eating them all myself. 😉

Honestly, it was exhausting, but oh so fun. I’m just glad we’ve got a year before we have to do it again.

Hump day crafts: More gifts – vinyl and sewing

June 22, 2011

It’s finally starting to feel like summer’s coming here in the Pacific Northwest, but I used the last few so-so weeks of spring to make some gifts.

First is a tile I did for a friend who was leaving work to have a baby. We worked together for the symphony, and her husband is very into music (he sings in our chorale), so I thought a family/music theme would be nice. I found a couple of sentiments online, and combined them to come up with this:

The tile was just under 8×10 inches and had a white marbled pattern screened on it. I wish I could remember which fonts I used. The script one was PassionsConflict, the serif one I’m not sure. And I wasn’t particularly happy with how it cut on the Cricut. Very inconsistent thickness. Hmmm, maybe I should start saving up for a better cutter. And one that is supportive of third party software that does what I want to do.

(Mini-rant here: I will not buy another Cricut thanks to their litigious actions against small software companies that, in my opinion, made their product better. The only reason I kept the Cricut, which was a gift, was because I knew there was software that would let me cut my own designs. I’ll be researching the BlackCat Lynx, Pazzles Inspiration, Silhouette SD, and other cutters that SCAL will work with. I hope you will do the same.)

Next was Thing 1’s gift for her kindergarten teacher. We decided on a flower pot with pencils and flowers, so she could decide what it should hold long term. I bought a glazed pot and saucer, slapped on some chalkboard paint, glued them together and added a vinyl sentiment and date. The font was Fantini, and the flowers are from SCAL2’s shape library. (I love the shapes library. It helps me combine the awesomeness of SCAL with the ease of Cricut cartridges.) Then we added some flowers — store-bought and the home-made pencil variety. Here’s a photo before Thing 1 got to add her chalk message:

To hold the flower pot, I sewed an oilcloth tote, inspired by this one from purlbee. I had seen some oilcloth at Joann’s and was coveting a tote for myself, so this was the perfect excuse — uh, opportunity — to buy some fabric. T1 picked the handprint pattern:

I love and hate making teacher gifts, because there are so many neat ideas but I’m worried they’ve gotten them all and the gift will just be thrown in a closet or donation box. While I’m sure the heartfelt gifts are appreciated (my daughter also made a card and wrote a letter), I hope that at least some part of our teacher gifts are somewhat useful.

Oy! It’s been long week, with the extra volunteering in the classroom (dragging Thing 2 along) on top of everything else, so I’ll wait to post the other stuff I’ve been working on. Happy crafting!

Hump day crafts: puppet theater

April 6, 2011

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but my 5 year old daughter, Thing 1, loves to craft. She has her own craft table and hates to throw any of creations away. I thought maybe I’d help her graduate from papercrafts to something a little more durable. Something the Cat will be less likely to throw in the recycle bin. So I asked her if she would like to learn to sew. As if I didn’t know the answer.

For help, we turned to Wendi Gratz’ Shiny Happy World.  I’ve been using her embroidery school videos to help me get a little further with my embroidery skills. Her sewing videos and patterns were just what I needed to get my daughter started. It seems in kindergarten, there’s always a friend’s birthday right around the corner, so we decided to make some gifts. I choose the finger puppets (an affordable pattern from Wendi) and the puppet theater (a free pattern from Wendi). They were simple, but great patterns. We made the pirates and ninjas that Wendy had drawn. Then we got creative and I drew a fairy, mermaid and princess set of finger puppets. (The book How to Draw Fairies and Mermaids was very helpful given my lack of artistic skills.) Thing 1 did much better at sewing than I expected. She never pulled the thread out of needle, kept her stitches right on the line and only stabbed herself one time through the two puppets she completed. Her stitches were a little large and she wouldn’t do any backstitches, but I still was proud of her. And she was proud of herself.

I finished up the other puppets and quickly stitched up the “theater” to hang on tension rods. The only thing I added was some elastic slots to set stick puppets or scenery into. Oh, and of course some bags to gift and store in. But before we wrapped it up, we had to try it out ourselves.

We gave them to one of her best friends last weekend. Although the party was a madhouse (what party for a 6 year old isn’t?), they seemed to appreciate the effort and result. And now Thing 1 wants to sew more so we can have some for our house. I guess she has yet to learn one of the most important things about crafting: you hardly ever get keep anything cool you make.

Happy crafting!

Ultimate Blog Party 2011

April 2, 2011

Ultimate Blog Party 2011

Late to the party again. But at least I’m here this year! And it’s great to get the chance to socialize, especially with the dreary winter weather we’ve been (and are still) having. Ugh! You’ll have the excuse the mess. This winter hasn’t been helpful in motivating me to clean up my blog. Hopefully this party will be just what I need to beat these winter blues.

What’s what?

I mostly blog about what I’m up to — mainly crafts, because, next to loving on my family, that’s what I enjoy most. I do papercrafts, sewing, knitting, Cricut crafts (paper and vinyl), and whatever strikes my fancy on the shelves of my local craft store or favorite blog tutorials. I occasionally blog about food, because it ranks up there as well. And I include recipes, because, let’s face it, there are only so many blog posts I can write about how much I like to eat chocolate. Besides that, there’s some random things about my family, being a navy wife, and being a sort-of-work-at-home-mostly-mom. I generally keep things light, because I just don’t have time to go into too much depth. I wish I had more time to spend here, because it really doesn’t show my true talents, but I enjoy sharing at least a little bit of what I’m doing. (You’d never guess I was a graphic designer and a writer from looking at this. But maybe someday I’ll get there on here.)

Who’s who?

I’m Joelle. I’m 40, and only occasionally embarrassed to admit it. I’ve been married to the Cat in the Hat for nearly 10 years. We’ve moved 4 times. (3 moves of over 1,000 miles. 1 move of 4 blocks.) Here’s us at our wedding:

And here we are now:

Yeah, he’s trying to put his finger in my nose while someone is taking our photo. The Cat doesn’t like having his photo taken, which is why this is the only recent one I have. The Cat is in the U.S. Navy. He is currently stationed in Washington on a submarine. I could tell you more, but then…well, you know, what that would lead to. It’s all top secret and stuff like that. What that means for us is that he goes out to sea for 8-12 weeks at a time and we’re not supposed to tell anyone about it. Fun stuff. We’re crossing our fingers for shore duty here next.

Luckily, our kids are a little more photogenic. First, there’s Thing 1. She’s 5 and in kindergarten. She’s bright, beautiful and not as self-confident as she could be.

Then there’s Thing 2. He’s 3 and…well, he’s a three year old boy. Rambunctious, loving, and as smart as his sister.

How two doofuses like us had cute kids like that — well, it’s a mystery wrapped in a miracle. But don’t worry, I try to keep my kid-related brags to a minimum on this blog. After all, they’re only a small part of the mess I’ve made. Although, they are the part that makes me Momma.

How’s that?

Yeah, my life is pretty good even though it’s a mess. I work part time. Live near family (which is lucky and rare for a navy wife). Have a big house I hate to clean. (Even flylady is too difficult for me to keep up with during these dreary Pacific Northwest wintery months.) Have a craft area I just can’t keep from piling up to the ceiling. I could b!t(h and moan, but I won’t because my life’s not too bad. I love my family, and they love me. I craft. I can still hide my chocolate from my kids. I may not have time to go out partying every weekend, but at least I can virtually party on here with you. So, feel free to leave a comment and invite me over to your place. I’ll be right over after the kids fall asleep.

Tori * 2002-2011 * Rest in peace

March 20, 2011

Thing 1 and Tori (2007)

Yesterday we lost our boxer, Tori. Although we knew it was coming, it was a sad day. She had a probable brain tumor, possible heart condition and who knows what else. Still, her quick decline took us by surprise, maybe because of our naive hope that she would hold on and be our beloved puppy for a few months longer.

In the end, she couldn’t get up on her own and frequently fell while walking. She had fallen on the kids and spent most of her time moaning on her bed. While we wanted to be selfish and keep her with us another week, we made the choice to take her to a local vet and have her euthanized. It was a harder call to make than I realized it would be, but I think the right one for her and us.

The kids took it about like I expected. Much crying and sadness and then back to life as normal. I know it will come up from time to time with them. She wasn’t a huge part of their lives, but a constant one. An occasional playmate, an after-meal vacuum, a pillow — they’ll definitely miss her. I will too. I have had to pause every time I come through the door today, knowing that Tori will not be greeting me. Will never greet me again. It is a sad fact for me, and one I am sorry my kids have to face at the ages of 3 and 5.

Still, there are some good things I’ve been able to point out. We will regain our backyard from the mucky dog poop field it had become. We can host the class guinea pig. We can go on mini vacations without worrying about who will take care of Tori. It doesn’t make up for losing her, but at least those thoughts can bring a momentary smile.

We will miss Tori, but life will go on. It is a hard lesson, but one that will probably be repeated many times as we raise our children.

Tori's last day with us