Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More farm birthday fun

Here are a few more fun details from Little Miss' "Down on the Farm" birthday party!

For an activity, the kids planted their very own heirloom variety vegetables.  I had ordered seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange, and the little party animals (see what I did there?!) planted their choice of Paris Market Carrot, King of the North Pepper, Blondkopfchen Tomato and De Cicco Broccoli.  Fun!

Even with our ridiculously mild winter, it was still too cold in February to make the kids go outside to handle the dirt. Instead, we did this activity inside.  I put on my brave face, covered the kitchen table with a plastic tablecloth, and set out the potting soil, plastic cups and measuring cups.  And hoped for the best.

And I shouldn't have worried. Aside from a few small spills, the kids did a fine job of filling their cups and planting the seeds.  It helped that all the adults were willing to assist the little ones, and a few adults even planted their own vegetables.  The mess was rolled up into the tablecloth and taken away so that folks could eat there when dinner was ready. 

A big trend with parties (see anything featured on Amy Atlas) are individual labels naming each drink, appetizer, dessert, etc. I like the look but I simply don't have the kind of time or patience necessary to pull it off.  Instead, I made general menus for the appetizers, meal and desserts using clip art I found on Microsoft Publisher.  I printed the menus on white card stock and displayed them in clear acrylic photo frames. Easy!

I didn't take any pictures of the main courses--at that point, the kitchen was too active and getting photos of the food would have been impossible--but here is what I served:

Tomorrow, I'll share the dessert table with you. Y'all come back, hear? 

LOL. I just love imaginary farm-speak.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Down on the farm

Little Miss' farm-themed second birthday party was a hoot. If the barn door invitations didn't let guests know what they were in for, then the kid-size barn and animatronic pony in our living room certainly did. Howdy!

My regular blog readers will be able to correctly identify this as a Handy Freddy creation.  The large part of the barn is actually a facade attached to the television puppet theater, while the door and chicken coop are mostly free-standing structures. It's all made out of cardboard, and the only costs were for the red spray paint and some red duck tape. Thanks, Freddy!

My Big Martha handled a lot of the country-farm-themed decorations, including everything on the mantle. Folks were impressed with her collection of antique only contribution was the Clabber Girl baking powder container, which is not an antique and came right out of my pantry.  That's proof that I made a really good decision in handing off a large part of the decorating to my mom.

My Big Martha took the kids' farm toys and made a super cute display on the dining room table.  See the farm table runner underneath the toys? Yep, that's all My Big Martha.  Thanks, Mom!

Other small farm scenes were scattered throughout the house, including this tractor that I put to work next to the punch bowl. It held the bottle opener and permanent markers so that guests could write their names on the plastic cups.  How's that for fancy, y'all?

With the barn, mantel decoration, tablescapes and more, I didn't put up a lot of streamers or other typical party decorations.  The decorations were assembled from things we already had: farm toys, my mom's country-style decorations, a ton of cardboard in the basement, etc.  By using what was available to me, and with the hard work of Handy Freddy and My Big Martha, the decorations were big on country farm style and extremely small in terms of cost.  Which is exactly how I like to party. Thanks, y'all!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Martha Monday--Corn on the cob cupcakes

Months ago, I came across these charming corn-on-the-cob cupcakes on Martha Stewart and immediately pinned them to my Barnyard Party board where I was gathering inspiration and ideas for Little Miss' second birthday.

Since then, it has become one of my most repinned and 'liked' items on Pinterest.  Who knew that cupcakes candied up to look like corn on the cob would be so popular?! Because they were a hit on Pinterest I knew they'd be a hit at Little Miss' party, and I just had to make them.

These may look complicated, but honestly the hardest part was finding a store nearby that sells jelly beans in bulk by color (at Woodman's, for those in the Fox Valley who need to know!).   The corn kernels are various shades/flavors of Jelly Belly's; I believe I used lemon, pineapple, cream soda and pina colada.  The pat of butter is a yellow/lemon Starburst candy, and the pepper is black sanding sugar.

Isn't that fun?  The cupcakes were a real hit.  All this week I'll feature details from our "Down on the Farm" themed birthday party for Little Miss.  Happy Monday!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Spring dreaming on such a winter's day

It's been a cold, yet relatively snow-less, winter here in Aurora. Though that changed late last night and early this morning with 4+ inches of the white stuff.  No matter, though. My thoughts have been less on the brown grass and white snow, and more on the colorful garden I want in my backyard for this spring, summer and fall. 

Planning for this garden began last year, in the midst of last year's garden adventure. As I was growing and tending, I was thinking about what else I wanted to try.  And I'm happy to report that Little Guy has been planning right along with me.  We read gardening books and magazines, pore over the vegetable pictures, and pick what new things we'd like to plant. It's been a lot of fun!  We are particularly excited about planting eggplants and potatoes this year, just so you know.

I've gotten a few seed/plant catalogs in the mail, but so far the Seed Savers Exchange has been my favorite. They have a great variety of heirloom and organic seeds, with beautiful pictures and detailed instructions for all the seeds and plants they offer. You can request your catalog here. I've ordered several packets of seeds, including Detroit Dark Red beets, King of the North peppers, and Dragon carrots. I can't wait to get them started!

My Stark Bros. catalog was also a welcome sight for my winter-weary eyes. You can request your copy here. Stark Bros. is located in Missouri, and they offer great fruit and nuts trees, as well as some garden and landscape ornamentals.

Last year we planted six dwarf fruit trees in the backyard; this year, I'd like to add two more apple trees.  If I could figure out how to fit some cherry and paw paw trees in my yard, then I'd order those as well.  I might experiment with some citrus trees this summer, keeping them trimmed and in containers so they could be moved indoors in the fall. 

This Meyeri Lemon tree looks like fun:

As does this Valencia Orange:

I'm sure I'll be making at least one order to Stark Bros. and Seed Savers in the next month or so, and when my favorite local nursery (Spring Bluff in Sugar Grove) puts out their seedlings, I'll get some there as well.

So while it's cold and snowy outside, I am quite content to curl up with my seed and plant catalogs. Spring will be here before I know it, and I want to be ready!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cards and kids

I've been on a craft kick lately, and I'm trying to get my kids into the act.  Fortunately, they are happy to color, paint and draw, which makes for some fun art projects. 

We did some hand print cards for Valentine's Day:

The thumbs, fingers and sides of the palms are supposed to form the shape of a heart. We didn't quite get there, but that's okay because my kids had a lot of fun making these cards, and that's really all that matters.

Notice the entire roll of paper towels in the background. Just in case!

I like to buy plain white 5x7 cards/envelopes in 25- and 50-packs from JoAnn's and Michael's.  They make perfect canvasses for send-able artwork.

Here, Little Miss made a birthday card for the Big Guy:

I'd like to emphasize at this time that Crayola Washable markers are, in fact, truly washable.

The Little Guy used Crayola watercolors for his card for the Big Guy.  Also totally washable.

The kids really enjoy their craft projects, and I like being able to send their fun pictures to friends and family.  Plus, I'll never need to buy another birthday card again! 

Need a rainy day (or any day!) craft project for your kids? Pick up some plain white cards/envelopes at the craft store and let them do their thing!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Martha Monday--Thank ewe!

I made 'thank you' notes to match the birthday theme and invitations for Samantha's 'Down on the Farm' birthday party. 

The cute little lamb/sheep was made with a Martha Stewart Crafts Sheep punch.

And to kick up the Martha-Stewart-factor about ten notches, I used not regular paper, but a paint sample from the Martha Stewart paint line at Home Depot.  The color?  Lamb

On a scale of one to ten, ten being the most Martha-like and one being 'not Martha at all,' I'd rate these cards at a 23.  Eight points for being home made, ten points for the "Lamb" paint samples being used with an MS Crafts Sheep punch, and five points for the word play.  Not that there's a set point system for this, and even if there were, I'm really sure the only person keeping score is me.

Thank ewe, thank ewe very much!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Crafty invitations

Little Miss' birthday is rapidly approaching.  Our theme is "Down on the Farm," and I wanted the invitations to let folks know what they were in for with our parties. 

The inside contains the important party information about when and what time folks need to wander on down to the TMI homestead for some farm-fresh fun. The red doors are textured scrapbook paper that I found on clearance, and the white trim (and the inside) is basic card stock.  I printed the inside text two to a page, trimmed them, glued on the barn doors, and then adding the white trim accents. 

These invitations were cheap to make, but took a lot of time.  Thank goodness the Big Guy helped!  I firmly believe that my time is worth some serious cash (there's so little of it--it must be a hot commodity!) so if I had to do it again I would just purchase these printable invitations from Wants and Wishes.  Live and learn, right?!

Overall, I am really happy with how these turned out and I've gotten several compliments on them. And bonus:  making these invitations fulfilled my New Year's Resolutions to be more frugal and to craft more.  Hopefully the parties will turn out just as good as the invitations did!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Party on Pinterest

I'm having a party on Pinterest! At least, that's where I'm planning Little Miss's second birthday party.  We're having a "Down on the Farm" themed party, and it's going to be awesome! 

Take a look at the board, and let me know what you think!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Martha Monday--Last minute romance

Valentine's Day is tomorrow...are you ready?  If not, you could always run to the store to buy a card and a box of chocolates. But if you really want to wow your sweetie, try these last-minute ideas from Martha instead:

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

A colorful Valentine's Day

Little Guy and Little Miss will be giving out these adorable crayon hearts for Valentine's Day:

Though it's been making the rounds on Pinterest, I first saw this idea in Family Fun a few years ago. Start by breaking up crayons. There's no need to buy new crayons for this project; I simply used all the crayon bits and pieces that my kids have broken over the past two years, as well as the crayons they get whenever we go to a restaurant. Between the crayon box, the diaper bag and the bottom of my purse, we had more than enough crayons to make 24 crayon hearts.  In fact, I could probably make 24 more!

Little Guy and Little Miss had a fun time filling the molds.  I broke each crayon into 3-4 pieces, and each heart-shaped cavity holds 6-8 pieces of crayon.  I always like craft projects that my kids can help with; not only is it fun for the family, but it also gives them a sense of ownership and pride in the finished product.

The baking molds went into a 230F oven for 10-15 minutes.  As you can see, some brand/type of crayons didn't melt well, but otherwise everything melted just fine. After the tins cooled, the crayons popped right out.

I decided to save a bit of time by using a pre-made cards for the crayons. I found this one, from The Long Thread, that prints out four to a page. Sweet!

Though it may look complicated, this Valentine's Day project is really easy to do and doesn't take a lot of time.  The hardest part might have been breaking the crayons!  Overall, this took less than an hour to do and it was a fun project for the kids.

And bonus: Little Guy's preschool friends will get a crayon, and not a sugary treat, for Valentine's Day.  That really makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Day printables

In years past Valentine's Day has not gotten its due at the TMI household, but now that I have two small children who get excited about any holiday that involves candy, Valentine's Day is becoming a big deal

We are making homemade Valentines for Little Guy's preschool class, as well as for Little Guy and Miss's friends and cousins.  Additionally, I'm decorating the house a bit.  Always mindful about budget (Little Miss's birthday parties right around the corner so I need to save my pennies for those) and time (I have none to spare), I found these free, easy and gorgeous Valentine's Day printables featured on Catch My Party.

All you need to do is download, print, cut out and enjoy.  Voila! Valentines for everyone, and all is right with the world. There are 13 sets of free Valentine's Day printables at Catch My Party, and I had a hard time choosing my favorite.  Here are my top five collections in no particular order:

First up is this "Sweetheart" collection from Paper and Pigtails.  Her invitation, banner and tent cards are completely editable so you can personalize these items for your party.

The "So Sweet" collection from Anna and Blue Paperie is just that--so sweet!  Little Miss is totally into polka dots right now, and I know these printables are going to be a huge hit with her.

The banner is going over my mantle, and I might use these candy stickers for workplace treats:

The "Happy Heart" collection from Magnolia Creative Co. offers another great banner and some cute Valentines cards, among other adorable things.
This next collection has a soft pink and gray palette which is a more sophisticated take on the usual red and pink Valentine's Day color scheme. "So Sweet" by Love the Day includes a heart-shaped treat holder and cute Valentines.

The entire "Cupcake" collection from Green Apple Paperie is adorable, but I especially like the tented cards with the soft pink striped background.  These would make perfect treat signs for a Valentine's Day party.
With these easy printables, I am all set for Valentine's Day.  Thanks to all the designers for sharing their work, and thanks to Catch My Party for hosting all the downloads.  Hugs and kisses for everyone!