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September 1, 2014

Daniel Tiger Birthday Party

A little less than 4 months from now my sweet girl will turn 3! That means it's time to start thinking about her 3rd birthday party. I have asked her what kind of party she would like. Her answer: "A pink one". Hmmm. Even though her favorite color is now apparently purple, she wants a pink birthday party and that is the only request she has. We'll see what happens, haha!

I like to give her birthday parties, especially since her birthday is 2 days after Christmas, which means it could potentially get lost in the holiday shuffle. I want to make sure we celebrate her in the midst of all the other celebrations. Last year she got a Daniel Tiger birthday party, and honestly she'd probably love that again.  But I want to think of a new birthday party idea for this year. In the meantime, check out what I did for her last party and feel free to use any of the ideas for your own party!

I made the birthday invitation with free digital paper here and made sure to include some of Daniel's best catch phrases. I always just e-mail her invitations; so much cheaper and easier!

So if your kids watch Daniel Tiger, you probably know the episode where Daniel's mom gets mad because Daniel and Prince Wednesday bring sand in the house to make a beach. They decide instead to make a pretend inside beach and use blankets as sand and water. Jael LOVES that, so I surprised her by setting up her own birthday inside beach, complete with a blow up palm tree (leftover from college, haha). 
The birthday girl quietly playing on her inside beach, pretending to scoop sand in her buckets. 
For a party activity, we set out coloring sheets since coloring is still a favorite around here. PBS has some great ones for free here. We found sheets for each character, plus some with the characters in the trolley and everyone had fun coloring them.

Instead of cake, we did cupcakes again, just like her Sesame Street first birthday party. We just did Daniel face cupcakes. The ears are mini Nilla wafers, the eyes are Wilton eye candy pieces and the rest is just icing. I actually thought these were harder than the Sesame Street cupcakes because of the detailed parts that had to be done with the icing. But my little love was so excited when she saw them so that's all that matters!

We had pizza, opened gifts in the beach chair in her pretend inside beach, ran around and played with balloons for awhile and then called it a night. It was super simple, but with a few special touches, very special birthday party.

Any ideas for what I should do for her 3rd birthday?? Honestly, she'd probably like another Daniel Tiger party, as we still watch the show all the time! And she got to meet Daniel Tiger at the White House Easter Egg Roll this spring. But I think I'll try to think of something else new and exciting for her this year. :)

Meeting Daniel Tiger at the White House!

June 12, 2014

DIY Bridal Shower

One of my younger sisters got married in May, and I had the privilege of organizing a SURPRISE bridal shower for her! (I was so thrilled that we pulled off the surprise!) I love planning parties! You can see my posts about my daughter's first birthday party here (and I will soon be posting about her second birthday party so stay tuned!).

For this party we rented out a back room in a local coffee shop that I know my sister enjoyed visiting. It ended up being incredibly affordable and was the perfect space for what we needed. I enlisted some family to help put the food together and it was all incredibly delicious.

Behind the food table was the Cupcake Bar we created so that everyone could decorate their own cupcakes with an assortment of sprinkles and candies.

I used cupcake wrappers to hold the toppings.
I was quite proud of the bunting banners I made to decorate the party. I spent hours cutting out pretty paper in the shape of triangles and stringing them onto pretty string. Below are a few close ups of the longest strand. Long strands are much more difficult to string than shorter ones, but I knew we had a long space to fill so I went for it.

I made a template and then used scrapbook paper in coordinating colors to cut out the triangles. I used a paper piercer to poke holes in the corners for the string. It made less of an impact and was less visible than using a hole punch. Then I strung the triangles onto green and white striped string that I found at Michaels in the dollar bin. I've also seen similar string, which seems to be popular now, at the Target One Spot.

I used single-sided paper because I knew it was going against the wall. If you need to string a bunting through a room I would recommend double sided paper. I got a lot of compliments on the banner and was told that the triangles were the perfect size, so I wanted to provide a template for anyone else who wants to try making their own! Follow the link below the photo to download the simple template. Print it and cut it out, then use it to trace onto your choice of paper. If you use 12 x 12 scrapbook paper, you should be able to line the triangles up in such a way that you can get 3 triangles out of one sheet of paper.

Click here to download this printable bunting banner template!

Another super fun thing we did at the bridal shower was a photo "booth" complete with props. I hung a shorter strand of bunting across an area designated for photos and gathered a bunch of things to use as props like a giant frame, lots of colorful beads and funny sunglasses. I also made paper props on sticks which are super fun and silly!

The coffee shop had built in shelves perfect for displaying all the fun photo booth props!
I found 12 pages of prop templates from Kensie Kate. Go here to download the template to make your own! The template includes a huge assortment of lips, mustaches, hats, etc. I didn't use all of them, just a small selection that I thought worked for our party theme.

Here are some of them closeup, before I added the sticks.
I cut the props out of scrapbooking cardstock that had a bit of texture to it. It gave them a little bit more depth. You can see in the photo that I also added some bling to some of them. I added rhinestones on the hat, silver studs on some of the glasses, and some of the props were cut out of glitter paper just for that extra little special detail. I hot glued them to wooden skewers and they were a big hit!

My mom and me having fun with the props at the party
We just played one game during the party, bridal shower bingo. This is the game where you have guests fill in a bingo card with presents you think the bride will receive and then mark off the ones you guessed right as she opens her gifts. First to bingo gets a prize! I used this template, but there are lots on the world wide web to choose from!

The party was a great success, from surprising the bride, to all the food and fun, finished off with awesome gifts to help the bride start her new life with her new husband! How about you, what are your best bridal shower ideas? Will you use any of the ideas or templates featured here for your own party? Comment below and let me know!

January 9, 2014

Moving Tips From A Self-Proclaimed Expert

That's right, I do consider myself an expert on moving! My family moved a lot when I was a kid. I'm not even sure how many times we moved, but I'm pretty sure it's more than 20. As an adult, through college and after getting married I still can't seem to stay put. As I've mentioned, my husband is in the Air Force. We have moved 3 times in the last 4 years. Yes, we are crazy.

Is this a familiar sight to anyone else? A room
full of boxes and disassembled furniture. 
This last move we made from FL to DC I did a lot of searching for tips and tricks to make moving go smoothly. We had more stuff to move than we've ever had before, plus a dog, a rabbit and a kid! If you Google "moving tips", like I did, you'll find so much valuable info that you can apply to your situation. I'm going to add my tips to the pot and hopefully they'll help someone!

Before You Pack

* Go through your things and sell, give away or throw out anything you can.

Your move, and especially unpacking and moving into your new place, will go so much smoother if you pare down what you have first. I recommend doing this several months before your moving date, if you have that much notice. Have a yard sale, list things on Craigslist or Facebook yard sale groups, donate to Goodwill or give things away to friends. If it's not of value to anyone else and you haven't used it in awhile, don't be afraid to throw it away!

Something I tried that worked really well was to go through each area of my house, room by room, closet by closet, and sort everything into piles of things to sell, trash and give away. Things that were going to be kept and moved with us got put away properly, which leads me to the next tip:

* Organize everything before packing

Our linen closet never looked as good as it did just
before our move! Organizing and folding all our blankets
and towels made it easier to pack them up. 
Take some time in the months and weeks before your move to organize your house. Put things back in their homes, or find a place for things that have just been laying around. For example, we had a bunch of baby stuff we were no longer using in various closets and in our daughter's bedroom. We put it all in one place neat and organized so it could all stay together for packing. Organizing your home will make it that much easier to pack up.

* Take an inventory

This tip is especially popular in the military community, where the majority of the time, movers are packing and transporting your "household goods" for you. But it's a good idea for anyone. I'll admit, we didn't do this! But I wanted to and should have. You can get as detailed as logging every last DVD and china plate to just going around your home with a video camera, detailing everything you see. One thing we did do was take photos of our television showing that they worked prior to moving. Then if it's broken on the other side you can prove it happened during the move.

* Do everything you love one last time

If you are moving far - out of state, out of the country - make sure to take time in all the moving madness to see all your friends, visit your favorite restaurants and do all your favorite fun things. Making new memories of all the things we loved really helped me get some closure and also have a good time in the midst of all the stress.

Our last (for awhile) pizza at our favorite pizza place in
Tampa, Precinct Pizza
We got family photos taken in Tampa to remember how special it was to us.
(Photo credit: Kalyn Brown Photography)

* Buy several boxes of the GIANT sized zip top bags and use them for EVERYTHING

I'm talking about the jumbo bags; I think Hefty brand sells them, that's what I used. They were super helpful in organizing my kitchen! I bagged all of my spices in these babies. I emptied my crock of wooden spoons and spatulas into one. My baking flour and sugar got wrapped up and zipped securely in a jumbo-sized bag as well. Seriously, these things were life savers.

Jumbo sized Hefty bags keep all your kitchen gadgets organized
I bagged my whole silverware tray. The silverware didn't all
stay in the right places, but at least it wasn't spilled all over
a box! Another idea is to wrap your silverware tray with
plastic wrap to avoid spilling even more. 
These were also amazing for organizing and packing my craft supplies. I just had this nightmarish vision in my head of the movers packing my craft supplies and on the other end opening boxes full of crumpled scrapbook paper and beads spilled everywhere. I used the jumbo bags to hold scrapbook paper and embellishments, another for my cross stitch projects, another for yarn, one for my pile of Gasparilla (Mardi Gras) beads, and one for my massive sea shell collection.

When you unpack, just empty the bags into their new homes and you're set! No searching for missing pieces to a set or digging through packing materials for small things that may have come unwrapped during the move. Some of my bagged items even stayed in their bags! It has made me more organized even after we are all unpacked and moved in.

Also on the topic of craft supplies, I highly recommend the clear plastic storage boxes that fit 12 x 12 craft supplies. These just stacked up nicely in boxes and all my paper and projects stayed nice and flat.

My craft desk all boxed and bagged up. 
A word of caution: if you don't organize and pack up your things, especially small things, effectively, you end up with something that looks like this:

Random crap wrapped up in packing paper. I missed a
spot when organizing and so this is what I got.
* Pack all your photo frames and decorations together

I recommend taking down all the photos and decorations from the walls a day or two prior to moving day and stacking them all carefully in one place so that they can be packed together. For example, if you leave the photos that are in your bedroom in there, they may end up being packed in with all your other bedroom stuff and maybe not being as secure. Pack them all together carefully, or if you have movers, make sure they pack them in appropriate packaging so they don't get broken and label the whole box as fragile.

Packing all your decorations together also allows you to unpack all the important stuff for living first, then when all that is out of the way, unpack your decorations boxes and find them all wall space in your new home. Doing this has helped me be able to quickly make new houses look like home.

* Pack an "open first" box

Make the last box you close up an "open first" box full of everything you will need right away when you unpack in your new place. Don't waste time hunting through poorly labeled boxes for things like tools and parts needed to put together your beds! Things we put in our open first box included parts and screws (in plastic baggies) for furniture that would need to be re-assembled, a few rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates and plastic cups, scissors, clean sheets and blankets to go right on our beds, and furniture sliders for moving furniture around easily. Anything we needed right away was in that box and it was so helpful!

* Pack suitcases tightly

Especially if you'll be flying, pack your suitcases full and tightly with your clothes and toiletries so that things don't shift around and become a mess for you on the other end.

Unpacking And Moving In

* Unpack quickly and get settled in

My handsome husband unpacking dishes in a sea of
packing paper.
I can't recommend enough that you unpack quickly and get settled in. For military families, we usually don't have time to wait and unpack slowly. Many military families know how to make a house a home very quickly. Take the time necessary and unpack everything, starting with the things you need first. If you have pared down your belongings ahead of time, there shouldn't be boxes full of random stuff stowed in closets for years.

I also recommend making your new place home as soon as possible. We painted, hung curtains and photos and got rid of all the boxes in the first few months after moving here to DC. It has really helped us feel settled in. Now we're working on getting out there and meeting new people and making new friends and new memories in our new home!

* Have fun!

Moving is very stressful, even for crazy people like me who enjoy it. Take time, even while you're unpacking like mad, to go out and do something new and fun at your new destination. Check out a few highly rated restaurants in the area, go see a fun new attraction, or just take a drive around the area. Start making new memories right away and your new town (or state or country) will feel like home in no time.

You can even have fun with your moving boxes! Build the kids a fort, a race car or a play house. Or do like my family did and use them as your Halloween costume. We moved in October and didn't have time to find awesome costumes for trick or treating, so we dressed up as a family who just moved! We went out wrapped in packing paper and tape, with boxes stuck on/to us, and covered in those moving stickers stuck to everything when you have movers pack your stuff. It was fun and got laughs out of the understanding military community.

Here's a summary of my best tips for moving:

* Go through your things and sell, give away or throw out anything you can.
* Organize everything before packing
* Take an inventory
* Do everything you love one last time
* Buy several boxes of the GIANT sized zip top bags and use them for EVERYTHING
* Pack all your photo frames and decorations together
* Pack an "open first" box
* Pack suitcases tightly
* Unpack quickly and get settled in
* Have fun!

Hopefully these tips help you have a smooth move and get settled quickly. What are your best tips for a smooth move? Share them in the comments and help us have an even smoother move next time, hopefully not for a few more years. :)