Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Events: Sweet Caroline's Girly Baseball Themed Baby Shower

Follow my blog with Bloglovin Earlier this month I had the privilege of throwing a baby shower for Andrea, one of my dearest friends who is expecting her second babe, and first little girl, in February.

Andie's always been a HUGE baseball fan (and she also happens to be married to a baseball coach), so as you can imagine baseball is a pretty big part of her adorable family's life. That's why I knew the shower needed to include a little baseball, along with some girly glitter & lace. Throw in a little "Sweet Caroline" (baby girl's name) and League of their Own and BAM! You've got a baby shower! :) 

I designed the invite in Adobe Illustrator and then uploaded it into to send the evite. I spent a lot of time researching the many evite options and ended up really liking this website. I especially liked that it let me design my own template and matching event website, send invitations super quickly, and view and track RSVPs. It also automatically sent attendees reminder emails as well as recap emails to me. 

To make the dessert table banner, I found a blank brown chipboard banner at Hobby Lobby, then printed "Sweet Caroline" on white card stock and cut around the letters. The best part of this project was adding the red glitter at the end! I also adapted the evite design to make a little League of Their Own  print - with a twist: "There's No Crying in Baseball. Well maybe sometimes." 

One of the other shower hostesses took care of the food and she did AMAZING! The baseball cake and cookies came from a local grocery store (Harter House), and they were so yummy. She made the tiny oreo truffles, and they were crazy good (thinking I need to follow up and get that recipe!). In addition to the many desserts, we had an entire table of quiches, crepes, numerous homemade breads AND a greek yogurt bar with fresh fruit. The spread was incredible! 

I was in charge of the punch, which I immediately got overwhelmed with when searching Pinterest. There were so many great looking recipes, but they all took a lot of time and ingredients. I needed it to be red, quick and good.

I ended up settling on one that was super simple, and was so good my husband kept sneaking in and stealing some. Ingredients: 1 gallon of Hawaiian punch, two 2-liters of 7-up and then a bunch of scoops of raspberry sorbet. Super easy but also seriously yum. It tasted even fancier out of the gold glitter champagne flutes I found at Target!

I made the fabric scrap banner through a tutorial I found on Pinterest (should've bookmarked it but forgot to). It was SUPER easy to make and only cost about $10 in supplies. Glitter cutlery and plates were not only super cute, they were also very thick and durable. Those, along with the baseball napkins, were from Amazon. 

For the centerpiece of the dining room table, which I forgot to snap a good picture of, I bought this baseball minky blanket from Mud Pie and laid it in the center of the table. Then I topped it with one of my husband's old ball gloves and a baseball. Since the table was packed with food and punch anyway, it was a simple - but super cute - space saving addition. 

Best of all: the guest of honor was happy and got a bunch of cute girly gifts. I'd say that means the shower was a success!  

Monday, January 12, 2015

9 No Cost, No Prep Ways to Beat Winter Blues

In the winter months we're always looking for things to do with our kids to keep them busy and burn a little energy. While there are a number of bounce house/museum/science center options, sometimes it's nice to have a few no cost, no prep ideas on hand too (especially with the flu season in full swing). 

So here I've complied 9 options that likely won't blow your mind, but might just be so simple that you've overlooked them. 

Yoga brothers
1) YouTube Instruction Videos: No matter your child's interest, you're bound to find some type of lesson your kids will enjoy on YouTube.

We recently discovered Cosmic Kids Yoga and our boys love it. There are a number of short yoga videos, and they're perfect for preschool aged kids. It's great to let them get a little energy out, they learn some good yoga breathing lessons, and they were super excited about using our mats. All for free.

The boys have been obsessed with Karate Kid lately (thanks to my husband & Netflix), so they asked for Gi's for Christmas. Pulling up YouTube Karate lessons has given them even more opportunities to dress up, and it's adorably entertaining. 

2) Dance Party: Kids love to dance, it must be built in to their DNA. I don't know when the joy of breaking into a dance at any point in time goes away, but it's kind of sad it doesn't stick around.

Karate Kids
For those who haven't outgrown the desire to stop, drop and shake it, finding good kid music is easy. We've downloaded a few preschool albums from iTunes that the boys love to hear over and over, but they also love the variety of Pandora kids stations (like Kidz Bop Kids and Toddler Radio).

3) Games Games Games: Never underestimate the power of basic games like hide-and-seek, Simon Says, or even iSpy.

Our kids are young enough that they like to play hide-and-seek, but it's ridiculously easy ("Mommy, come find me! I'm NOT in my closet... For the 100th time!"). It may be silly, but it entertains them for the longest time.

4) Simple, Random Crafts: With Pinterest it's easy to think crafts have to be big, fancy projects. The beauty of having little kids is that crafts can be as simple as letting them play with a tape dispenser. No seriously, my boys love playing with tape.

So pull out the Play Doh and a few plastic forks and spoons, or maybe the washable markers and some paper. Get fancy and let them use scissors, glue, glitter, paint or - gasp - stickers! Their craft expectations are seriously low so take advantage now before they too discover Pinterest. 

5) Clean Machines: Give your kid a dustpan and little broom and let him go to town on your kitchen! Have a handheld vacuum? Even better! Our kids, while absolute pros at making messes, also enjoy cleaning up. Or at least attempting to. 

They can clean(ish) windows, sponge off cabinet fronts, dust shelves, wipe up sinks... Even put away(ish) laundry. Obviously the quality may not be the best, but they enjoy helping and learn the value of cleaning up. And they stay BUSY!

6) Bath Time: When in doubt, let them play in the tub. Bonus: find something new you can throw in with them. Whether it's an actual bath toy or just something that won't get ruined in the tub, there's something exciting about playing with a new toy in the tub. My sons get super excited when I let them take a different superhero to bath time.

A different spin on bath time: You could pretend to go to the beach or pool and have them throw on swimsuits, goggles, snorkels, and toss in a few pool toys. Then let them dry off with beach towels. Maybe even crank up a beachy Pandora station (we love Family Road Trip Radio). Do the whole bit, but the best part is that you won't have to fight them to apply sunscreen.

7) Photography Lessons: Through the years we've accumulated a number of old phones, though I don't really know why we keep them. Maybe it's just in case we decide to step back a few years in technology advancements, to remember our lives "in the olden days?"

A better use of an old phone, in addition to loading it with a few games so your kids can have something to do while waiting for a doctor's appointment (just in case you have a wait, which you always do), is to let your kiddos use the phone's camera. 

It's been fun to watch our 4 year old learn to aim, hold steady, and snap a picture. Or 50. He also likes to shoot little videos, which are hilarious to watch. It's so interesting to see what they view as picture-worthy: typically a toy, the floor or body part.

8) Wrestle: In our house, wrestling is currently called "playing football", but often no football is involved.

Our boys love to get in the floor and just wrestle with us and each other. Sometimes someone gets hurt (like my split lip Christmas gift from Wesley), but most of the time it's just pure fun.

The best part is that it often ends in cuddling, which is about the only way we can get our boys to do that anymore! 

9) Chef It Up: Kids typically like simple foods, so to them cooking can be as easy as assembling a sandwiches, mixing up basic ingredients, or even spreading butter on toast. Let your kids help make their snack, dinner or even something special like cookies for their grandparents. 

Our boys love to help make breakfast, especially scrambled eggs. My husband selects one egg helper every morning, and it's a pretty big deal to earn this title. I would have never thought a 2 year old could make scrambled eggs, but he does a pretty good job.

You have to eat at least 3 times a day anyway, you might as well put your kids to work helping prepare the food.

All of these ideas are for staying in the house, but if you ever need to just get out and don't want to spend any money, you could always visit the closest store with an escalator and spend hours going up and down! Our boys also love visiting Bass Pro and pretending to be pirates in their boats. I'm sure the Bass Pro employees love that as well!

So here's to staying busy - and healthy - until spring rolls around!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Baby Gear: My Fave 5 For The First 6 Months

Last week while visiting with a soon to be mama, my overwhelmed friend asked me about my baby must-have suggestions. Now that Sylvia's reached 1/2 a year old, there are a few things I've been able to use quite a bit in the first 6 months with all 3 kiddos.

In a sentence, the 5 things that I think often fly a little too under the radar are awesome blankets, a baby carrier, toys that attach to stuff, easy to wear clothes, and Amazon Mom. In much greater detail...

1. Awesome Blankets. Note the word "awesome" - not the tiny kind that only work for the first few weeks, but there are numerous types of blankets we've gotten a TON of use out of. For starters, Aden + Anais brand blankets are the perfect swaddle size. They're also super light weight, so you don't have to worry about your baby getting too warm. Both of the boys loved these blankets, and now Sylvie literally can't fall asleep unless she's holding one. We went with the all white set 4+ years ago and they still look like new (thank you bleach). 
Aden + Anais Swaddles

You can also never have too many nice, soft large blankets or throws to lay out on the ground for your baby to roll around on. The whole fam can use these to cuddle up with in the winter time, you can toss one in the trunk for emergencies, use one as a nursing cover, or roll one out in the summertime for a picnic. I really want one like this from Pottery Barn!

Lastly, knit blankets are the best! My cousin's mother-in-law knit blankets for all 3 kiddos, and so far both boys still sleep with theirs. Carter's is so worn, it's now nearly disintegrated. I really love if they're a looser knit so they're more breathable, which the boys love too.

2. Baby Carrier or Wrap: I. Hate. Carseats. I love that they protect my children in the car, but otherwise I hate them. If you've ever carried your child in a carseat, you know it weighs something like 2,000 pounds. Even better, there's no graceful way to lug that 2,000 pounds from A to B. While it's nice to be able to carry Sylvie in the house if she's fallen asleep on the car ride home, there's really no other reason I take the carseat out (except to clean under it). Have you ever tried to grocery shop with a GIANT carseat in your cart? You can buy exactly 4 groceries.
Sylvie fast asleep in the Solly Wrap

All that to say, an awesome carrier is so convenient for those first 6 months when your baby sleeps a lot and can't really sit on her own. As soon as you have more than 1 kiddo, I'd say a carrier is pretty much a must as well.

I've used an array of carriers for different reasons, but my fave/easiest to put on is a structured carrier like the ErgoBoba or Bjorn. These 3 tend to be a bit more bulky and my babies rarely slept while in them, but they always kept them content and gave me free hands. The best carrier for the earliest months, and least bulky, has been a wrap. I really like the Solly Baby Wrap (as did Sylvie), but it's also the only wrap I've used. It's important to learn how to wrap it, which I know some find cumbersome, but for the cheaper price and extra cuddle time, I thought it was worth it. I typically tied the wrap on before I left the house, which saved a lot of time and kept it clean longer.

3. Toys You Can Attach: Each of my babies preferred different toys depending on the day, but the biggest thing I'd suggest is getting lots of toys that hook to things (like the Winkel), as well as lots of extra links. Sylvie loves to chew on the links, and I can also use them to hook toys to her carseat, high chair, and even crib. Seriously, so cheap and it saves you from fetching toys off the ground at a restaurant over and over. And over.

4. Clothes: It's no secret that I love dressing my kiddos (how fun are little people clothes?!), but regardless of their gender, I can tell you there are a few practical items I've used over and over for all of my kiddos.

Basic onesies. We love Carter's brand bodysuits, they fit my babies perfectly and held up well. In the summer they're perfect on their own, and in the winter they're a great bottom layer to keep your baby cozy. If they're neutral, they'll literally last for 3 children (or more)! I also really like Carter's leggings (much more practical for diaper changes & wiggly babies than jeans).

Zipper sleepers. While we always have an array of sleepers (button up, zip up, 2 piece, nightgowns), in the end the zip up sleepers are just the best! Not only are they easier to get on and off (especially in the case of a blow out), they keep your baby cozy on the chilly nights. While they tend to run a little small, the Children's Place makes some of my favorites. Also, my husband can attest to the fact that I never get the buttons aligned on the first try. Seriously, it's a problem. Zippers all the way!

Syl napping in her FPs
Shoes. All of my babies were born in the summer, so fortunately we didn't really need shoes until they were about 3 months old. While there's definitely no shortage of cute styles, I had the hardest time finding cute shoes that also stayed on their feet! It wasn't until the last few years that I discovered Freshly Picked moccasins. Game changer. There are tons of other moccasin companies out there, but so far the only ones I've tried are FP.

Basically if you can find cute shoes (like FP or Bobux) with either a good elastic closure (something that works for both chubby and skinny feet) or strong velcro (I've had good luck with Livie & Luca brand), I'd say they're worth the extra money. When dealing with all the other things a newborn to 6 month old baby needs, few things are more annoying then worrying about losing a friggin shoe!

5. Convenience: Before kids we'd make a run to Sams every so often to stock up on the necessities (paper towels, tp, toothpaste, detergents - you know, the glamorous stuff). After kiddos, that errand became such a hassle, so we started looking for a better solution.

Now we use Amazon's Subscribe & Save for allllll that stuff. As an Amazon Mom I get 20% off diapers, and free shipping on everything else too. So basically once a month we get a huge delivery of all the goods we used to go to the store for, and most of them are significantly cheaper. Such a win.

Once Sylvia hits a year old, which I know will come too soon, I'll attempt to list more of my faves. Or maybe I'll be too busy chasing all these crazy kiddos!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Design: Winter 2014 Projects

The last few months have been busy! Between design projects, home projects and family projects (including adding one babe to our crew), the year has slipped away! Here are a few of the things that have kept me busy just this month alone:
Decorating for Christmas! Important in our fam. Vital, really. 
Designing a logo and branding pieces for a new local property investment company in Springfield. The owner also happens to be my dad, so he's good news. I'm planning to start the website design soon, so I'll (try to remember to) share the link here once it's live. 

Business cards. Finally I designed my own!

Baby shower invites. This is only the top portion because the location of the party is top secret :) Invitations are some of my faves to design.

Photo shoot with my almost 6 month old. Ok this may not look like much, but this wagon was mine as a little girl and my dad refinished it and made it look new. Now I use it as often as I can in pictures because basically I love it! Here's a shot of me and my sis in it just a few years ago. Love.

I'm thinking about asking my 30-something year old sister to recreate this pic with me for my mom for Christmas. Or maybe not.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Events: Carter's 3rd Birthday

In July we'll celebrate Carter's 4th birthday, so before it hits the "1 year ago mark" I decided to share a few pictures from his Superhero themed party we held last summer. It's amazing how much changes in a year, considering then he didn't really have a single favorite superhero - he just loved them all. Now he specifically loves Superman, though from time to time he'll introduce a few others (depending on his mood).

For the invitation, I had a fun photo shoot with Super Carter on the front porch with a few of his favorite superhero items. At the time that was his Superman shirt, mask, and rain boots. It was a good look.
Invites were ordered from TinyPrints; I always really like their print quality.

Before the party, the entire family got superhero tattoos. We're hardcore.
I made the cake using cupcake wrappers & toppers from Amazon, along with colorful sprinkles. It was a hit.
Superhero photo booth props were from Amazon as well.
In addition to photo booth props, the kid station had blank superhero masks and colored pencils to entertain little ones before the party. Attendees also got superhero bracelets (you'll see them on the wrists of some of the littles below).
The tablescape had to be pretty simple since it was 95 degrees outside and we didn't want everything (or everyone) to melt. I still really like how it turned out!
After cake & snacks, all the kids completed a small superhero training course. Since most of the little ones were 3 years and under, we had to keep it pretty simple. 
The course included sliding, running through cones, jumping through hula hoops, climbing through a tunnel, and then lastly shooting the bad guys with silly string. It got pretty intense.
I loved watching my husband explain the course to the (not so) captive audience!
Carter chose the bad guys everyone would shoot: Syndrome (from The Incredibles), Lotso (from Toy Story 3), and Mr. Waternoose from Monster's Inc.
We ended the activities with an "evil" monkey piƱata. I really wanted something more scary, but I kind of struck out in that department. In addition, he proved to be a bit too tough for the little ones to crack open, but fortunately some of the older attendees were able to help save the day!
Since the boys turn 2 and 4 exactly 4 weeks apart, AND I'm also due with baby sister directly in the middle of that, this year I'm planning a joint party the 4th of July weekend that includes our neighborhood parade. Hopefully I'll get party pictures posted sooner than 10 months later! :)