24 February 2012

{this moment}

Joining Soulemama's {this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

22 February 2012

Kaia's 4th Birthday

Oh, my, I've had a little blog break. For some reason I really didn't want to do this post, and at the same time felt like I needed to do it before moving on. I think, in large part, it was all the stress and craziness leading up to her party, and I was still too exhausted to want to even look through the pictures. Why was it stressful and crazy getting ready for her party? Because it always is, no matter how much I try to prepare in advance. 

Anyway, getting on with things. Since Kaia's theme choice was a bit.. well.. not very concise, (she wanted fairies, unicorns, dragons, castles, rainbows, and mushrooms!) I tried to do her decorations mostly based around a rainbow theme. I bought a big bag of multicoloured balloons, and after they were blown up I tied them together in bunches of colour to make the "balloon rainbow" she had requested. We hung it up on the living room wall, and I think it came out very pretty!

I did find rainbow streamers ahead of time, while we were picking things out and price comparing, but, (oops!) I totally forgot to pick them up. Instead, we used purple and green streamers we had on hand, and she got a big bunch of helium balloons, including all the colours of the rainbow, and some special birthday bubble balloons.

Her one big birthday request was to have the basement (our play space,) finally painted for her party. That soaked up a whole lot of our prep time, and added greatly to the stress and craziness, as she didn't make this ever-so-important-to-her request until about two weeks before her party. We did get it mostly finished in green, teal, and purple, using the absolutely fantastic, no-VOC, Yolo paints that we bought over a year ago for the basement from our wonderful local Michigan supplier. I am so happy it is finally painted, and it is lovely! We have yet to finish all the trim, (which will be cream,) cabinets, and doors, but having the walls slathered in beautiful colour was quite enough for her. I will have to get pictures when we complete it.

To decorate the play space walls I painted a great big unicorn, (styled after The Last Unicorn, with some Kaia-requested alternations,) cut grasses and bushes out of green paperboard, (Kaia then glued plastic "gems" to all the bushes,) and we made construction paper mushrooms, (which the girls really enjoyed adding the spots to!) I wanted also to make a big dragon, and turn one of the doorways downstairs into a castle entrance, but I ran out of time. (sad face) I stuck all the decorations up for the below picture, but this was before we painted, and for the party I spread them around the room.

I looked up a number of rainbow themed party ideas, and good grief! What a lot of sugar was involved in all those table settings! I'm not against giving out some candy at my kids' parties, don't get me wrong. To be honest, though, to lay out the kind of sweets-laden table that I found pictures of all over the web at a child's party, you would have to be insane! They certainly look pretty, but I can only imagine what kind of candy-frenzied berserker-child madness must ensue once you have unleashed the children on it! I went with a healthier, more woodlandy theme for our snack table. I bought some butterfly plant stakes that I put here and there around the house and tables, and did get some rainbows involved in the form of jelly beans and fruit skewers. The rainbow fruit skewers were a big hit!

We put out a variety of crackers, chips, salsa, guacamole, pretzels, peanuts, cinnamon sugar almonds, "veggie sticks", and a veggie platter full of broccoli, red, yellow, green, and orange bell peppers, carrots, celery, and hummus, using various baskets and wooden bowls with cloths lining them. To have enough, I picked up a few more baskets at the thrift store.

(Kaia wearing her special birthday shirt made by Handmade By Jenn, an Etsy shop.)

We prettied the snack table up with green burlap down the center, and scattered it with a rainbow of cloth flowers and pine cones that Kaia helped me collect before hand. I cut a pine branch into slices and rubbed mineral oil onto the cut ends to place candles on, which we set amid the snacks down the center of the table. (Out of reach of little hands!) You'll have to excuse the fact that I didn't get some of these pictures until after the party, and didn't manage to get a picture of the complete table that didn't include other people, which I don't make a habit of posting on my blog. So I'm afraid you'll have to be content with individual elements outside their setting.

And, of course, there was cake. Ohhhhh, the cake. We have a silicone castle cake mold that Kaia desperately wanted to use for her birthday cake, but every time I have tried I cannot get the thing out, no matter how much oil and flour I coat it with. It looks similar to this one. All those pointy turrets and little fiddly bits will not come out for me. (We did use it successfully to make our castle ice lantern, at least.) I was expecting this, but gave it a shot anyway. I am not sure what I am doing wrong, but when the expected happened, we ate the pieces and tried again to make a castle cake, this time by baking sections and constructing it ourselves. That was disastrous, too! The cakes didn't rise at all, (I am wondering if our egg replacer is past its prime, I use it so seldom,) and they certainly couldn't be made into anything approaching a castle. I amateurishly decorated the large one, anyway, and had some fun with all the icing tips I had never used before. And then I baked cupcakes. It's a good thing I started my cake shenanigans a few days before the party.

We had a whole rainbow of fairy wings, (which I also forgot to take a picture of until I only had a few left,) that I found here. They are the butterfly wings, and were all very nice, which is more than I can say for the sloppy, glue smeared ones we looked at in the dollar store. This is the same place we purchased all the cloth flowers.

I asked in our invites to please include in the RSVP a fairy / dragon count, and all the boys went dragon and all the girls went fairy, with the exception of one little girl that wanted to be a dragon, and one little boy who asked if he could be a fairy dragon. Okay, I wasn't shocked, but I did want to give them the option. :) I ordered olive butterfly wings to try converting to dragon wings, which I would say was semi-successful. They weren't large enough to remove the extra pair of wings and not look silly, and I didn't have much play with the wire because the nylon was tightly formed to their original shape. They did get worn, though, so I will take it as more success than fail, even if I wasn't very happy with how they came out. If I had had the time to make 8 pair of dragon wings from scratch, I think they would have been much nicer.

We did feed them all pasta before sugaring them up with cake and candy. We had around 40 people at our house, all told, about half and half in kid to adult ratio between attending parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Since I have only one large burner, and one large pot, I made a few pounds of pasta ahead of time which we made into a yummy pasta salad for the adults to dig into. Then, while the kids were playing, I cooked up a few more pounds of hot pasta for them, which I kept pretty simple with margarine, a little salt, a smidge of powdered smoke, and a heap of nutritional yeast. The kids all ate and liked it, saying that it tasted like mac and cheese, and went unaware of its veganess until I told them. Boy, were they a lot of kids to sit down around a table!

We had a unicorn pinata as well, which I had someone take a video of, but was too distracted trying to keep 20 kids from being smacked with a big stick to remember to take a photo of. It was a fill-yourself pinata, which was nice, enabling me to use all vegan-friendly candies, which I put into separate treat bags before putting into the pinata. We had children aged 1 ½ up to 12 years old, so I didn't want all the big kids getting the whole of the loot. I was afraid this may take some of the excitement out of it for experienced pinata destroyers, but I forgot how powerful the possession of candy is, none of the kids cared. :)

We had a great time, once everything was done and the party was ready to start. I was really happy to get dinner figured out for everyone so that we didn't have to try cramming the whole thing into two hours like we have previously done. It seems so much easier to order pizzas all around! I only know of one pizza place in the area that makes vegan pizzas, though, and they are an hour away and far too expensive for us to provide a party load of people! It was worth it, though. The kids had so much more time to simply play together.

I was also much happier to give out a pair of wings to use in imaginative play to each child, instead of a baggie of plastic junk that would end up broken and in a landfill by the end of the week. I have never given out these seemingly obligatory goody bags, but Kaia has brought home her fair share. Ugh!

 Oh, yes! Kaia did wear her unicorn crown and rainbow tail with her wings for a while, but eventually ditched them for just the wings. It's a good thing she has worn them so much outside the party, or I would have been pretty disappointed after all that work making them for her birthday party!

10 February 2012

{this moment}

Joining Soulemama's {this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

06 February 2012

These Beautiful Days

It has been simply gorgeous weather here these last few days, beautiful sunshine, and warm enough to venture outside without big, puffy coats. At least for a little while.

(I just can't just enough of the chickens lovely eggs, it's probably lucky I don't take a picture of them every day.) It was so nice to sit out in the sun and watch the girls cook away in their mud pie kitchen, I miss the ability to do so so much in the Winter.

While enjoying the fair weather, though, I can't help but wonder, and worry a bit. I don't remember any Winter as mild as this one has been. I still feel like we're working our way into the season, like it hasn't actually hit yet. Shouldn't it still look like this? (Last week.)

Aside from playing outside as much as possible, I've decided to attempt crochet again. My Mum taught me when I was young how to make chains, and a basic stitch, and... I have never made it any farther than that. I am starting out by reacquainting myself with what I already know, which is pretty much a simple scarf, and nothing more. I hope to move on from there, and figure out how to look at a pattern without it looking like an entirely different language. I began with a little blue scarf for Katalin, but when Kaia saw it, she wanted to know if I would make her one. For her Birthday. Which is in a couple days.

I quickly put Katalin's scarf on stand-by, and began working on one for Kaia, getting in a row or two whenever she is not looking. I'm using up the Bernat Mosaic Yarn - Psychedelic I used on Kaia's unicorn tail. I've gotten midway through, only to rip the whole thing out, so many times now that I've lost count. Eventually it became obvious that she would get either an imperfect scarf, or no scarf at all. Now I am just trying to do my best and roll with it. Wish me luck, please!

05 February 2012

Castle Birthday Invitations

Sharing with you the invitations we made for Miss Kaia's birthday party. They are pretty simple affairs. I folded a piece of scrap paper in half and drew half a castle on it, then cut it out. (So it will be symmetrical.) The door is cut out the way it is so that it is easy to trace the shape, and I know where to stop cutting to leave paper "hinges" on.

I used that first piece as a template to trace out the rest of my castles, and cut them all out. The doors are cut up the center, then down each side about halfway, leaving them attached and openable.

Using a glue pen with a sponge tip, I applied a light layer of clear glue to the backs of the castles. I adhered them to card stock, leaving the backs of the doors unglued.

To make so many windows easier to do, I cut potato stamps in three shapes. A large window, and smaller window, and a point for using on doorknobs. I dipped them in embossing fluid and stamped my windows, dusting them with embossing powder, which I then set. I outlined the windows and rooves with a glue pen and dusted them with sparkles, as well as adding a big "K" to the front. (For, "Kaia", of course.) The embossing adds some neat texture to the castles, as the windows actually bubble out, something not really picked up by the camera.

Inside the doors, I drew a bunch of balloons, and touched them with a glitter pen. I outlined them with pen, and also used pen to add a couple flag poles on the turrets. I cut tiny pennants out of card stock, and glued those above the towers on the "poles".

I added all the party info to the backs, (what I would give for a printer!) and what I would like to say now is that I immediately slipped them into addressed envelopes and sent them on their way!

Unfortunately, what really happened is that I set them in the middle of the table to do just that, and while I was was not watching, (probably cooking, doing laundry, or *gasp* in the bathroom, heaven forbid,) my inquisitive little 18 month old, Miss Katalin,  got them all down and "happened" to them. Kataclysm! Oh, this age. Such fun.

So I have remade just a handful to send out to Grandparents, which I am doing quite belatedly. Ah, life.

03 February 2012

{this moment}

Joining Soulemama's {this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.