Monday, April 2, 2012

Bring-Your-Own-Easter-Egg Hunt

For the past few years, LM has invited his friends to a local park for a Bring-Your-Own-Easter-Egg Hunt.  The concept is simple.  Each kid brings 12 Easter eggs stuffed with little trinkets such as tattoos, stickers and stamps.  We try to avoid candy.  The kids arrive about 10:30 and play until about 11:00. That way if someone is running late, no big deal.  The kids then eat lunch (provided by their parents).  While they are eating their lunch, a few of the parents hide the eggs.  After eating, the hunt is on!  Each kid hunts for exactly 12 eggs and then stops.

It was a blast last year and a blast this year.  I hope you try this low stress way of celebrating Easter with your friends!
Checking out the loot.
The Gang!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Under $50 Construction Party!

CAUTION- This is a LONG post with lots of pictures... I hope you enjoy it!

As I mentioned in my last post, LM turned 3!  He is obsessed with anything construction- specifically diggers.  I went with Diggers as the theme for his party.  I am super cheap and wanted to do the majority of the party with my computer, things we had around the house and a small amount of food.
Here is my break down per kid
  • apron 9x .77
  • hard hat 9x .50
  • crayons.  4x .30 (bought crayons on sale for .30 in fall school supply sales.  I split the boxes in two)
  • 1/2 pack of card stock- already had
  • 1/2 pack of sticker paper- 5.00 (coupon for staples and still have paper left)
  • kinkos 2.99 (enlarged clipart)
  • paper bags and brown paper (already had)
  • Rubber duckies 12 @$6.35 
  • 2x 24 pack @ $1.49
  • floral foam 3.00
  • duck tape 3.00
  • black plastic table cloths- 4x .80
  • about 4$ at dollar store for random things
  • Balloons 1 dozen 6.00
  • sticks for cake toppers - free from coffee shop - I asked and they gave them to me
  •  food
    • I kept it cheap by making my own subs and cutting my own apples.
    • The chips, dip and salsa were free by using coupons
    • The soda and fruit boxes were free with coupons
    • I already had the water but probably spent 1.50 for the case.
GRAND TOTAL: $46.17ish... I add the ish because I didn't track how much it was to make the subs.... but I did 4 subs for about 3:50 a sub total (estimate).  The day I bought the subs and fixings I worked a buy 20 of certain items and get $5 off from your bill.  I did this with 40 items that I needed so that I could pretty much pay for the subs this way.

I also paid about .5 for all of the plates and cups because I bought them after Halloween on sale.  I didn't have enough of the largest size for the adults so I had to pull some out of my everyday stash (from target and totally matched the colors!)

I really wanted to keep the entire party under $75.  I am sure I am missing several items but I think I totally did a cute party for my son for under $50.  Here is how I did it!

The Greeting
LM's shirt.  I drew some circles in Word, added a number and printed it out on some t-shirt transfer paper I had from last years party. I ironed it onto an old white t-shirt.  This way I always know how old he was at this party.  Simple and easy to toss when it gets dirty.

When the kids came in the door, LM lead them to a check in station where he gave each kid a hard hat with their name and a Home Depot apron to wear.   All of the adults were VERY surprised that all of the kids kept their apron on the entire time and for the most part kept their hats on as well. 

The front of the hats had LM's logo and the specific kid's name on the back.

These were simple and easy to do.  I made the happy birthday banner myself on the computer and used twine to tie it together.  I used close pins to attach it to the blinds.
I pulled all of the diggers we had in the house and used them on the table as decorations and to hold the plates and napkins.  I also made little signs for the table that said Dig In and stuck them on the containers (dollar spot at Target and Big Lots).  I covered all of the tables with black plastic table cloths (under a dollar at Wally World) and took yellow duck tape (40% off at Hobby Lobby) to tape road lines down the table.  I then added a couple of balloons and that was it for decorations.  Super simple to set up and super simple to clean!


The food was designed to be simple.  We had:
  • sub sandwiches with fixings on the side that I made that morning cut into smaller sections for the kids
  • apple slices and peanut butter dip
  • chips and salsa
  • chips and dip
  • water, soda and juice boxes

Of course, it was a freezing cold day, so we had to move the party inside.  I set the house up in stations.  Each station was defined by some brown paper taped to the appropriate place.

There was a Pound It Station where the kids hammered golf tees into floral foam.  This was a HUGE surprise hit with the kids.  Super cheap.  I think the blocks were 3 for about $3 at WallyWorld and my husband had a handful of old golf tees that he contributed.  This station also had some crayons on it so they could draw if they wanted.

The next station was Build It.  Where the kids could build towers with blocks and knock them down... always fun for toddlers.
We also had a Dig It Station.  This about gave my husband a heart attack when he saw it.  But I reassured him that it would clean up easily.  Originally this was supposed to be sand, but when we moved it inside, I ran out and purchased a cheap bag of rice.  All of the kids LOVED this sensory box as well.
 Lastly we did play one organized game.  Pin the bucket on the crane.  I took a piece of clip art and had it blown up at Kinkos.  The kids took turns pinning the bucket on the crane.  As it turns out it was the first time any of them had every worn a blindfold so we didn't spin them.  It was very entertaining for the adults to watch.
Cake and Kids eating area
I have a big foyer in my house and so I set the kids table up there so that no one had to be worried about spills and crumbs.  It was odd when everyone walked in and saw this, but worth it for the peace of mind.  Don't you love the box of diapers by the door ready to go home with one of the younger brothers?  It is ALL in the details people!
I used caution tape to keep the kids out of the office on the right.
At each kids place setting was a "coloring book" I made from some printable pages from the Tonka website.  I reduced their size so I could get 2 to a page and made a simple cover.  They also got a customized box of crayons that uses the Bulldozing Logo (repetition is good).  The template for the crayon box can be found at Chica and Jo.  It is free!  As it turns out, they didn't use theses during the party because they were so busy with the stations.
I am not a big cake person- too hard to serve and I thought that cupcakes would be easy to make and I could do it ahead of time.  A few weeks prior to the party I had a cupcake sampling at our couples poker game (don't judge me) and the overwhelming choice was this chocolate King Arthur recipe with this chocolate King Arthur frosting.  I used a ziplock bag to pipe the frosting on the cupcakes and made toppers to go along with the construction theme. I didn't get a picture of the cupcakes with the toppers on them, but here are the toppers.

Here are some pictures of LM eating his....

Swag Bags
If I had known that the kids were not going to use their coloring books, I would have skipped the swag bags.  Alas I didn't know this so I made swag bags.  One of my pet peeves are  bags filled with candy and cheap toys.  We had great swag!  
On the front there was a sticker with the word crew on it and on the back holding it shut there was a thank you sticker.
The bags are plain lunch sacks.
Inside each bag was:
  • small construction themed rubber duckie
  • 4 construction themed silly bands
  • bubbles with custom labels (printed on sticker paper)

 So leaving the party, each kid got their apron, hat, coloring book, crayons, swag bag and a balloon.  We didn't plan for the balloon, but the kids were going crazy about them so each one got one!  

How did it go?
The feedback from the parents was that all of the kids had fun.  I think that almost every kid cried at some point, but that is the age.  

I also really appreciate the help I got from the parents.  They seemed to enjoy the station idea and enjoyed getting down on their hands and knees to play with the kids.  How many were there- There was a total of 6 kids and one younger sibling.  We prepped for 7 kids and another sibling, but they got sick at the last moment.  Almost every kid had two parents there so we had lots of help.  The kids are all kids that we play with so it was a super comfortable and casual feel to the party.  This is because we are friends with all of the kids and their parents. I really wish we could have had it outside, but with a Feb. 25th birthday, it can't always be that way!

Final Thoughts
I worked on this party from Halloween (cheap theme colors) to the day of the party the last weekend in February.  I did a ton on my computer and used many materials that I had at home.  I spent a lot of time on Pinterest- a rabbit hole in itself to search for ideas from other people.  I tried to put my own spin on just about everything.  Here is my party ideas board if you would like to see what inspired me.  I am thinking that next year will be a dinosaur theme- so I can start collecting things this Easter (see how twisted my mind is!!!). If I forgot to give anyone credit, I am truly sorry.  Just send me a shout out and I will add the credit to my post.

Skip To My Lou

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I am three

Well we have had a busy few weeks here.  LM has been sick.  He has had a fever for EVER!  Nothing wrong with him according to the doctor, there is just some crazy fever sickness thing running crazy in his daycare.  We had it, got rid of it and are thinking that either he has it again or he is hung over from his birthday weekend. I will post picture from the party later, but until then, I wanted to pass on this neat idea I totally ripped off from pinterest.

Here is the thing, I take a ton of photos.  I make digital photo books every year (2 copies, one for LM and one for me and my husband) but I don't scrap book. I don't have a baby book for LM.  I have a xerox box with stuff thrown in it.  I understand my limitations.  I am a photographer and I kind of feel like it is a sin to cut up a print.  I just can't do it!  Have at it if that is your thing, it just isn't mine.  I figure that my legacy to my son is the photographic documentation of his and our lives.  I feel strongly about this.

I did want to do something that is a bit different and I have seen these all over the internet lately.  I am pretty skilled with technology so I though I could rip one out very simply.

Every year now that LM is old enough to talk and express verbally his very firm opinions, we are going to ask him a series of questions.  I plan on changing the questions as he gets a bit older and understands different concepts.  This year, my actual questions came from Oopsey Daisy.

Here it is:
Not too shabby huh?  I am linking it up to Skip to My Lou

Here is a sneak peak of the party... tune in next week to see more.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Valentine Pictures

I took a quick photo session for a surprise valentine gift for a friend.  Her kids are super cute.  It made my evening to see these images on my computer.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Valentine

Valentine's Day is an interesting holiday for me. We don't really celebrate it at my house like others do. Hubby and I will exchange cards and some years there will be flowers waiting for me in the kitchen when I get up. But we don't go out (we hate crowds) and we don't buy gifts. I am thrilled and happy with this non-stress holiday! That said, I do have a little love in my heart for the valentines that kids give to each other.

This year, LM made his for his classmates and a few of his adult friends. If you remember, a couple of years ago we made these

Here is what we made this year. I am sorry for the crappy photos.  I took them with my iPhone at work.

Here is what you need to make these cute valentines for almost no money!

  • regular brown lunch sacks
  • clear plastic treat bags ( I had these, but you can use snack bags or anything you have around)
  • Tag design and sticker paper- I printed off these tags on sticker paper from LittleSproutCreations.
  • Stickers for closing the plastic bags and goodies to put inside.  I used extra heart stickers and M&Ms
  1. Fill the clear bags with your choice of goodies.  I used M&Ms because I wanted something that I could pack flat.  I put between 1/8 and 1/4 Cup in. 
  2. Use one of the heart stickers to hold over the folded plastic bag.
  3. Open up the lunch sack and place the stickers on the bottom and the M&Ms on top of the stickers.
  4. Fold the bag over.  I used the foundation of the bottom of the bag for the size to fold.  I wanted to make sure that my end product was somewhat flat so that it would be easy for my toddler to hold and that they were all a unified size.
  5. Use the big sticker already cut out, to hold the bag closed.  I used sticker paper, but you could use double sided tape or string.  
  6. Bobs your Uncle, you have a cute valentine.

Of course, I had wanted to decorate the crap out of these things, but I realize that my son isn't represented very much if I girl it up. But.... if you had a girl imagine how cute this would be with a strip of lace wrapped around the package and held down with the sticker.  You also don't have to do dinosaurs, but could do any other image and saying that you like.  I went quick and easy with mine so I just downloaded some already made.   I also just wrote in my son's name.

Do you have a cute Valentine's Day idea?

Linking back to:
Between Naps on the Porch: Metamorphisis Monday
Skip to my Lou

Monday, January 23, 2012

Be patient Mama, and stocking up!

Out of the mouths of babes.
So a few weeks LM and I were in the grocery store together.  I was trying to hustle him along because it was the afternoon and I (selfishly) wanted to get home, change into my jammies and throw that fake log on the fire that was in my grocery cart. LM was walking and NOT in the cart. I asked him to "move out smartly" because he was lagging behind and I didn't want to invoke The Cart Rule. The Cart Rule in our house states that when in a store if you can't stay NEXT to Mama then you get in the cart.  I have no idea what the rule is with Dada, but it is a FIRM rule with me.  Poor LM was really dragging his feet and when I asked him again to put a little hustle in it, he looked up at me with his crazy long eyelashes, gave a big sigh and said, "I am moving, you have to be patient."  Well said LM, well said.  With that I took a minute to slow down my aggressive power walk and wait up for him.

On another note, I spent time last weekend restocking the freezer with a few freezer meals so I CAN be more patient.  I am always more patient when I don't have to freak out what to cook for dinner.

Here is how I do it.
  • I always grocery shop the day prior to my prep day.  I can't pull myself together for doing it all on one day. I generally do one type of protein (holla Top Chef) at a time.  I find this easier for me with planning.
  • assess freezing supplies- I use FREEZER gallon and quart size bags, aluminum foil casserole dishes (or what ever I can find).  I bought a TON on sale after Christmas so we will have snowman on our dishes for the next year. There are different techniques and the book can help you with this, but I mostly use the disposable pans.  I like the no mess, no clean up of it.  I also don't have to flash freeze the dish then pull and wrap.  Do some research and decide what you want to do.  Remember this should make your life easier!
  • Sale items dictate recipes that are used
  • I heavily use the internet as resources and this book- Don't Panic- Dinner is in the Freezer (I would link to this book but I can't because I am writing this at work and they block EVERY website ever!).  I scan the Sunday paper looking for the best deal on the protein (Top Chef) and match them up with the appropriate recipe.  This time around I hit some crazy sales on boneless chicken breasts.  However, I was short on time so I totally went the easy way.  I bought 6 packages of chicken (3-4 breasts each) for about $1.50-$2 a package. I also wanted to make a few meat things so I also got a total of 4lbs of ground meat- it was on sale but not for an awesome price.
  • 6 packages of marinated chicken- ready to grill
  • 2 meals of sloppy joes
  • 2 baked ziti casseroles
  • 40 meatballs (raw, need to be thawed and cooked for 20 minutes)- good for meatball subs, spaghetti or a white sauce.

Prep Day
  • I set aside about 2 hours for this, but it didn't take that long.
  • Cut up three onions and measure.  Place any left over in freezer bags of 1 cup servings to use later.
  • Brown meat for meat based dishes.  I made baked ziti and sloppy joes.  Both have a base of browned ground beef and onions.  Easy peasy.
  • Make sloppy joes and simmer on the back burner
  • Make and assemble baked ziti
  • while everything is cooling, bag up chicken.
  • I had at home already several McCormick packages of meat marinades and some Italian dressing.  Three breasts in a gallon size FREEZER zip lock with the marinade mixed, labels on front and six meals are ready for the grill.  The night prior or when the first person gets home, the bag is pulled.  As the chicken thaws, the marinade does it's job.  Grill the chicken and you can either eat it straight, cut it up for chicken salad or a regular salad.  I make small batches because it is easier to pull two bags out then make too much and then not eat it.
  • Make meatballs and flash freeze on a cookie sheet.  You do this so that they don't stick together in the bag and so that they don't get as much freezer burn.
Bag it up
  • Soooo my chicken is already bagged up.  I make sure I have a label on the outside with what kind of chicken.  Freeze it flat or roll it is up to you.  I roll.
  • When cool, double wrap the casseroles in foil and saran wrap.  Put a label on the front with then name and cooking instructions.
  • Put the meatballs in a freezer bag and label.
  • Cool sloppy joes, place in freezer bags, label and flash free flat (place bag in a cake pan). When they hold their shape you can pull them out.
Last words
  • I always write up a freezer inventory and put it on the fridge upstairs so ALL of us know what is in the basement.  On this inventory, I also put what needs to be done to the meal (cook, thaw, fully cooked, raw, etc).
  • I like to use disposable things for this.  I am usually desperate when I pull from the freezer and I don't want to deal with dishes after.  The book has different freezing techniques that use other things.  Bottom line is use what is easy and good for you.
  • I encourage my husband to "shop" from the freezer on his nights.
  • Make meals that can double or triple.
  • Don't feel like you have to make a ton of food.  My goal this year is to just have one meal a week for the freezer if I need it.  If I don't need it then no biggie!
I can't give you the recipes for the sloppy joes or the meatballs, but I can give you the baked ziti.- Enjoy~

Baked Ziti
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lg onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar (26-28 oz) 
  • 1 can (8oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 10 oz dried ziti cooked, 7 minutes and drained
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 C mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Brown bee, onion and garlic.  Add sauces and oregano.
  2. Bring to a boil and remove from heat
  3. Combine 1 C sauce with ziti
  4. Spoon 1/2 ziti mixture in a 13x9 pan (I use two 8x8 pans)
  5. Top with ricotta, 1 C mozzarella, 1C sauce.
  6. Add remaining ziti and then the remaining sauce
  7. Cover and bake at 350 for 20 minutes
  8. Sprinkle with remining cheese and Parmesan cheese
  9. Bake 10 minues longer
If you are going to freeze then-
  1. Follow above including step 6
  2. Cover with foil and saran wrap
  3. Freeze
  4. When ready to cook, remove saran wrap
  6. Bake covered at 350 for 2 hrs until done.
Linking to:

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    Too Long

    Hi!  It has been awhile since I have posted.... I know there is no real excuse.  I have been busy with an online class I am taking to add an endorsement to my teaching certificates.  I keep all of my teaching certificates current just in case I might have to go back to the classroom (shudder).  The next thing I knew, Halloween was here and then Thanksgiving!  Here are some very late pictures from our fantastic trip to a local pumpkin patch.

    Picking pumpkins is serious business and can make a certain little boy cranky when he can't find the perfect pumpkin!

    You have to weigh the pumpkin.

    Then you have to run around like wild guy and tolerate kisses from your Mama.  Play in some corn and slide down a cool slide.

    And lastly.... take a minute to look around and appreciate everything put on this Earth for our enjoyment. Our cup runneth over with the perfectness of the day.