Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Homey's Adventures in Wonderland

You can see the planning process and back story here and here

As previously mentioned in the other posts, it's a priority of mine to make magic out of a birthday.  That's doesn't have to be expensive!  You can use things you already have or buy ahead.  Can this sweet little dress from Target be an Easter dress?  Can she also use it during her Alice party if we add a little white apron?  Can she be Alice again for Halloween and "storybook character" day at school.  Yes.  It's done.

 Buy real clothes that lend a nod to the theme you have in mind.  It will serve you well!  Then delve into the story.

Wonderland is an intriguing, exciting, and magical place to be.  So let's pick apart a few elements and make them work to create a bit of magic for the children. 

In this particular case, there are clocks, mirrors, decks of cards, hats, roses, and many beautiful quotes.  When you get past the gimmicky silliness of most "theme" parties, you can make a more in depth personal magic for the children.  Just got to get started a little bit earlier.

Here are the details for Alice:

There has to be a tea party (also known as: the children have to eat).  For the menu, we did a simple little spread: 
Sandwiches cut to look like cards in a deck (shapes cut out of fruit roll-ups)
Heart pastries (palmiers from Trader Joe's)
Lemonade for "tea"
Assorted fruit to round out the lovely snack

For decor on the kids tea table, I pulled from what I had with a few small additions.  A vintage table cloth, in Alice blue, worked perfectly.  I added some cake plates in varying heights to hold the food.  We made color copies of a vintage Alice in Wonderland book (text pages and illustrated pages), cut with shears and tied together with ribbon to make a table runner.  A Mice on Main figure as the dormouse sleeping in a teacup round out the decorations. 

Like a lot of children's parties, there was a significant adult presence, so we had a separate food table for us grown ups.

Setting up the other food table up inside, is another chance to bring the "world" we've created to life.  Along with showcasing the birthday cake (away from bugs, heat, and little adorable grimy icing-hungry fingers), the indoor table is perfect for more quotes, decorations, and nods to Wonderland.  It spreads the magic and gives the adults a chance to take advantage of the air conditioning and grown-up conversation.  At a 6 year old's birthday party, those are both huge.  Speaking of grown-ups...
I had a brilliant idea right before this party.  Literally the day before the party.  I went to the local beer and wine store to find a lovely beverage to tie into the theme.  Even asked the guy working there if they might have a label that featured a caterpillar with a hookah.  Maybe I went a little to far on that one.  But look what he did find...are you kidding me??  Who knew there was Mad Hatter IPA?!  We'll take it.

In true "we're all mad here!" style, I tend to get a little, um...specific for my cake orders at the bakery. For our party in Wonderland, I really wanted a cake similar to the Disney version. 

Add caption
It's a time honored family tradition to get a cake from Strossners, a local bakery that tickles your senses the second you walk in the door.  The smell of sugar and the artfully done cakes and pastries provide a magical place to spend time taking home special treats or ordering the annual birthday cake.  I think they may dread seeing me walk in the door during birthday season, as there's a tendency to turn the order sheet over and draw what I want the cake to look like.  I really need to let go sometimes.  They did a great job putting my scattered ideas together for this!

I find that it's easy to get caught up in the pretties of the party, creating the landscape, perfecting the menu (simple as it was).  For a child's birthday party, I suppose the children will want, well, activities.  Games and shenanigans to burn off the excitement and sugar.  Keeping in mind that this and that most of our parties are equally split between little girls and little boys, I couldn' expect a tea party to tide them over for long.  So let's play!

One of the main parts of the Alice story is croquet.  Not everyone has croquet handy.  Honestly, I wouldn't have if we hadn't acquired a vintage set from a family member.  Since I like to take it to the next level, I figured I could mimic the card figure wickets by adhering inexpensive cards to our wire wickets.  Cute, no?

There was also the chance to play dress up, Mad Hatter style.  I collected various hat and headbands...flower headbands for the talking flowers, Tweedle Dee/Dum whirly-gig hats for the fellas, and various other fun hats in a hatbox I usually store scarves and purses in.  With a little mirror and the fun quote from the Caterpillar "Who Aaaare You?", it created a fun pretend play area for the littles.  Plus, these little adornments were part of the take home favor.  Kill two birds with one stone?  Yes, please!

Lastly, and most proudly, is our pinata.  I think the pinata idea is a great idea for most parties.  Plus, I've decided that these days they can be adapted to most themes.  There was an epiphany moment while deep in the Wonderland of brainstorming that I decided that we should Slay the Jabberwocky.  Fantastic!  It lends a slightly darker, less girly angle to the party.  And for the kids, it's really just a great reason to beat the dickens out of this papier mache dragon.  Great fun!

 Finally, it's time for favors. 

 They've picked their hats to take home, but a few more trinkets never hurt anyone.  Since it was everyone else's "un-birthday", I chose that quote for the favor bag label.  The bags included silly straws, pocket mirrors for girls, decks of cards for boys, and Pepperidge Farm chess cookies.

We may all be mad here, but this was a fun and magical party.  Full of Wonder like it was intended to be. 

*Special thanks to Grammy for lending her backyard and house since we had some unfortunate house repairs come up right before Go Time**

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Her point of view

Her point of view.  Her take on life.  I hear it all the time, and I don't listen enough.  But every day I try to be more in tune to what she's seeing through her little eyes.  She'll never be this age again, so I'm trying to soak up her 8 year old soul.

She knows things that I'm not immediately cognizant of. Her thoughts are a reminder of what daily life is all about.

She woke up at JMom's after a spend-over (also known as a sleep over crossed with a spend the night party) just this past weekend and said "I love the smell of morning".  She knows that the day has just started and anything is possible.  Nothing's gone wrong or haywire.  It's going to be a great day full of fun, good food, and family. I want to love the smell of morning like she does.

Once she was back home, we resumed the normal weekend routine. Sunday morning, we went to church.  Any kiddo can get a little restless in a church service, so we usually have a little something for her to do during the service.  If for no other reason than to save the offering envelopes that the church paid for.  (I drew on those a LOT!)

As long as she stops to pray, participate in the readings, and stand to sing the hymns.  For the second time in as many weeks, I've noticed that she literally pumps her fists (hissing "Yessss!") when we get to the Gloria Patri.  As a long time fan of traditional hymns, I think fist pumping is completely appropriate.  I have no doubt that Heaven is full of such excited shenanigans!

But it took an 8 year old to remind me of these things.

For tomorrow, I think I'll try to see what morning smells like while humming the Gloria Patri.  That cannot be a bad start to my day. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Show your work!

There's something about a chalkboard.  As a child, I remember both the fear and trepidation of working out a math problem or diagramming a sentence and the triumphant success of doing it correctly.  All in front of the whole class.
There are also memories of banging erasers after school or washing the chalkboard.  I liked being helpful!

As of late, I've developed a new affinity for chalkboards.  I've even told my inner circle to watch for overuse of chalk surfaces since I'm so enamored by the flexibility of the chalkboard.  I'd hate for half of my house to be a chalkboard surface.  I'd never sleep at night thinking about all the things I could write, draw, and erase.  It would be a problem

I can start an idea, mess up, and erase it.  I can start again.  I can do it again and again until I get it the way I like it.  This constant reinvention makes it the perfect project for a home that's a constant reinvention for us. 

There are so many ways to use a chalkboard finish (I've been using them in a lot of different ways lately!).  The first one is the pantry door.  The interior doors in this house are not all that pretty.  Some we'll replace, and some we'll, well, reinvent.  The pantry door was a perfect candidate.

Depending on the project you have in mind, there is a chalkboard paint that will work.  For the door, I got a quart of chalkboard paint and a little roller.  A couple of coats does the trick.  Once it's good and dry, the chalkboard needs to be primed.  Just take a piece of chalk sideways over the whole surface then erase.

A touch of whimsy never hurt anybody either...

As a new feature, kiddos are automatically attracted to it and want their own go at some creativity. So as a word to the wise, give 'em the bottom of the door for a little bit of fun.

Especially when the first thing on the board is "The best people are Mommy and Daddy YAY!"

A chalkboard door is the perfect way to start a countdown to a birthday or any event or holiday.
I find myself wondering what to write on the door next.  There are so many things I could draw, so many words to celebrate and showcase.  I have ideas for my next chalk-scape, but let me know if there's something you think would be awesome on this door!  Between song lyrics, iconic quotes, and limitless graphics it's so hard to nail down the next pantry door feature...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hello, there!

 Time to come out of hibernation!

On a lot of levels.  Ready to see what we've been up to? 

 A quick catch-up--
Still in the same enchanted house on the same enchanted street.  I wouldn't have it any other way! I've said it before, and I stand by it.  This house, as wonky and hard-headed as it continues to be, is more than our project. It's our home.  And I love hearing the house speak up every now and then, letting me know what it needs. 

 The more I love this place, the more it loves us. 

Being back at work full-time has taken a lot of time and energy away from our little abode.  But that will never be a reason to not press on.  This darling is still talking to me and evolving as we change how we live in it. 

I really look forward to writing again about how we do things in our circle...henceforth known as The Vortex (this lovely little corner of our town, because of such great neighbors, friends and family, is understandably hard to leave because the fun and love take over immediately).  More to come!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Sneakers

Oh, these sneakers. They've learned a lot of things.  They know things.
 They have been brand new...this is the weekend we got them in anticipation of first grade.  She broke them in at the Greenville Drive game for the Summer Reader Parade.  Shiny and super purple.
 She wore them to heft the giant pumpkin up the front steps to welcome Fall.  She's an ant.  That pumpkin was at least half a ton.
She wore them when her training wheels came off.  
We staged the 1st grade Sock Hop poodle skirt around those sneakers (no matter how crooked that poor skirt actually turned out.  I don't sew.  Want to, but it's not my gig).
 And those sneakers have gone all summer to day camp for a ton of adventures.  
Even Meg hates to see them go.  Or she's hoping I'll get distracted so she can eat them too.  Oh Megsy.
 Time for new year, new shoes...


...never know where those shoes will take you.

The one thing those shoes do know is GO TIGERS!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Passport

I love summer.  I love surprises.  I love making plans (even indefinite ones. They may be the best kind!).  So when my super cool sister-in-law pinned  this on Pinterest, with the idea to make it a summer passport for kiddos, I was all over it.
The link appears to be broken, so I was just able to show y'all the image of the original idea. 
This is such a brilliant and super quick way to get excited about something.  Summer, the Christmas season, a big trip.  It was the perfect start to our summer though because we knew we'd be doing smaller outings and long weekend getaways instead of a full week away this year.
So about a week before the last day of school, I got a little blank book and started making a list of fun summery things to do.  Go on a picnic for dinner, go out for ice cream, movie matinee, dinner at the pool, etc.  The one fancy idea was a weekend at the beach (we had booked it months ago, but chose to keep that little tidbit of information from Homey).  Such a cool start to her summer!
The last day of school arrived, and Homey's parents of the year sprung into action.  We do that sometimes, when we can pry ourselves away from daily Porch Down time.  I had secretly packed Homey's things by keeping them in folded piles in the laundry room.  I had groceries ready and bagged, and we stole into the night (to the garage) to collect beach toys, chairs, and coolers.  I mean, we even packed our coffee pot because this little guy would never do.
Have Cuisinart, will travel!
 Since I had to put a few hours of work in that morning, the Mr. packed the car and got us ready to hit the road.  The greatest part of the plan was picking Homey up and just driving East without telling her where she was going.  So far, her biggest excitement was being a car-rider as opposed to going to after school camp.
Hello!  I am now a 2nd Grader!
So she hops in the car (filled to the gills with bags, road trip activities, boogie boards, etc.)  She didn't seem to notice.  I gave her the Summer Passport, and we read through all the fun things we'd try to stamp through this summer.
She still didn't really notice that we'd been on the highway for a while.  We asked if she wondered where she was going.  "Nah, *yawn*.  I'm just glad to be going somewhere."  Ha!!
Well, go somewhere we shall!  We got all the way through the "All Beaches This Way" signs, still nothing really phasing her (and we were 4 hours in!)  FINALLY, we go over a hill and see the beach in front of us.  Her response?  "Is that the beach?  Can we stop and see it?"  Um.  Yes.  We can.
After being thrilled about getting to stay in a hotel (add to list of Homey's favorite things.  "It even has hangers and an ironing board!"  Impressive, I suppose), she got to geek out about the sugar cereal that we never have at home. 
And other than a little tropical storm named Andrea, we had a blast!  Just a few shots of our quick beach weekend:
The sea was angry that day, my friends.

       More stories about our Passport fun to come!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The hall--another "room" checked off the list

It's hard to make something like a hallway priority when making DIY plans for the house.  However, it's hard to have a hallway as ridiculously bad as ours was.  Since the fix was purely cosmetic, I'm rather shocked that it good me this long to get it done.

This poor hallway didn't have a lot going for it.  Blue paneling with a wallpaper border (I tried to see if I could get the border off to avoid having to buy new wainscoting...no such luck). 

Plastic wood-look trim that was so carefully cut out to accomodate various thermostats and ornate switch plates.
 A wall of vents (baseboard and wall!) that didn't actually work anymore (not pictured). I wish I had a photo since those awful vents were the first thing you saw from the front door.  Ugh. 
This is better:
 New paneling, new trim, new paint!  New light fixture (not pictured)...no more weird shadows thrown all over the place.

A place for photos and miscellany.

It's not perfect...we still need to get 4 new doors.  And we won't even talk about the floors.  We'll have to leave that fiasco for later and just be glad for two new runners to help cover them :).
It's amazing what a little updating can do to really liven up a hallway...I love it! 

Off to say goodbye to the last of the mauve carpet...stay tuned!