Family Summer Bucket List: Weeks 1 and 2

We’re participating in the 2013 Summer Bucket List Challenge. Here’s what we’ve checked off so far:

1. Ride a Carnival Coaster – Technically not a coaster but our local carnival didn’t bring one this year so we worked with what we got. O was not disappointed in the slightest to ride the spinning dinosaurs.

coaster collage
2. Play with Water Balloons – Take that 90 degree day! (unfortunately Daddy and I were too caught up in trying to get each other that we forgot to take more pictures). Our purple Pumponator worked like a charm and O loved pumping and counting (exactly 7 pumps was perfect for us). P.S. the Pumponator is also great for shooting water at unsuspecting victims but it’s not fast on the refill so it’s easy for the other party to get revenge.

water balloon collage 2

Yes, I was playing with cool photo effects.

3. Go to a New Museum – We visited the Museum of Science in Boston over Memorial Day weekend (The Dead Sea Scrolls special exhibit tipped the adult votes away from the Children’s Museum). Since none of us had ever been there before, I was worried it might be better for older kids but it turned out there was lots of stuff O found fascinating and that was totally in her skill level. We attended a free show about Lightning where the world’s largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator created lightning bolts indoors for us (recommended for grades 3 and up but O has never had a problem with loud noises) and a free live animal presentation on geckos. We also bought tickets for the Butterfly Garden exhibit which rewarded O, after being unbelievably patient and still, with 2 butterflies landing on her knee. We also loved the full dinosaur skeletons and life-size T-Rex model, and the Science in the Park exhibit (included with ticket price) which was basically a playground (The museum site explains it as: “Run, jump, swing, and use familiar objects to investigate the pushes and pulls of everyday life.”). Highly recommended. P.S. If you ask the info desk, there’s a private nursing room (not on the museum map) that you can use if unoccupied!

Boston museum collage 2

Clockwise from top left: 1. Don’t worry, the baby was “driving” at a rest stop. 2. O started with a green elephant then said she was building a house around him. 3. Have you seen these optical illusions where the object looks like you can grab it? 4. The view from inside the Butterfly exhibit. 5. Waiting patiently for butterflies. 6. Mommy had a brown butterfly land on her the moment we walked in.

4. ADULTS ONLY – Zip Line Date with Zoom Ziplines at Mountain Creek, NJ. I bought tickets for this from LivingSocial back in December as a Christmas Gift for my husband. They operate year-round (so yes, you can zip line in the snow!) but since the trip there and back would take half the day, we needed to wait until Number 2 was a little older and nursing less often – luckily we had until June to use the deal. We rode a Gondola lift up the mountain, did a short training zip line and 3 big zip lines, walked across a suspension bridge and sat in a Unimog back to the Gondola lift down. Our guides were competent, friendly and I felt very safe with them. Although I’m not totally sure it would have been worth it at full price, my husband and I had a blast.

Zipline collage 2

The gondola lift and the view of NJ as we went up the mountain

Zipline collage 1

Left: The longest zip line (our barely visible landing deck marked with an arrow) and Right: my husband and I in our gear.

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Orange Butterfly 3rd Birthday Party – Part 2

birthday countdown collage 2

construction paper birthday chain countdown

To start off O’s birthday celebration, I found this awesome idea for a paper chain countdown from Big Day Chains. Due to my extreme procrastination, I didn’t have time to order one from them and had to DIY a version for myself, but if you can, I highly recommend ordering from Big Day Chains – their printed version is super adorable, can be colored by the birthday kid on one side and comes with a commemorative card for the scrapbook. O LOVED tearing off a chain every day (I recommend adding a little pre-tear to the day’s chain link before your child gets to it if they’re younger or just a really enthusiastic ripper or else you might need to keep scotch tape handy for repairs).

Moving on to the party planning. We decided to do an orange themed party with butterflies this year. I wrote a little about my ideas in a previous post here. But when I showed off my cake idea, my husband, mother and multiple friends all vetoed fondant (really? you want the cake to look good and taste good? geez. haha). So, the cake design had to be changed. I also found some amazing edible butterflies from SugarRobot on Etsy (made from potato starch) that I just had to use (originally I was going to put 3 frosted butterfly cookies on the cake).

Originally I was also thinking of doing an orange and blue color theme, but I realized that finding the exact shade of blue I wanted was probably going to take some special ordering. Since I wanted to stay on budget, I decided to change the party colors to orange and pink instead. Every store with party supplies has at least 2 shades of pink stuff, a pastel and a hot pink – so that made stocking up on basic things like balloons, streamers and utensils from the dollar store super easy.

cake design collage

Left to right: the original cake idea, the final cake design, the party table layout

Referencing my party table drawing above (yeah, that amazing piece of art is all me), I also decided early on that I had to have these adorable glass mason jar sippers from the Acme Party Box Company and their orange striped paper straws. I filled them with Celestial Seasonings Country Peach Passion tea with ice which everyone loved and without a drop of sugar added.

To make the peach iced tea:

  1. Take 6 tea bags and steep with 1 cup boiling water for about 10 minutes.
  2. Then add cold water to fill your pitcher.
  3. Add ice to each mason jar right before serving
  4. Note – other brands of peach tea are not as good.
  5. Note – Do NOT use Celestial Seasonings Peach iced tea – it’s caffeinated black tea with peach flavor added. The Celestial Seasonings Country Peach Passion tea is herbal, caffeine-free, safe for all ages and tastes way better.
birthday morning collage

O discovering her butterflies on the morning of her birthday

On O’s birthday morning, complete with butterfly PJs, we hung a curtain of butterflies outside her room (from Oriental Trading) which she loved (and then had her toy dinosaur eat, haha). We went out for a pancake breakfast and by the time we were done, the weather had warmed up enough to kick everyone outside to play while I set up the house for the party. We bought a bean bag toss and a ring toss from Oriental Trading, bubble wands (dollar store!) and we had a ball pit from last year to bring out too. The bean bag toss was a huge hit with the adult guests by the way.

For food, my former-chef sister chopped up an amazing goat cheese and mixed veggie salad which we paired with this recipe for an Olive Garden copycat salad dressing which turned out fantastic and a fruit salad that I’m pretty sure included every fruit known to man (she even stuck fresh figs in there). We ordered BBQ pizza too for the meat-eaters in the group.

party table collage watermark
Next, the party table. I ordered a strawberry sunrise (love that!) butterfly mobile kit from littledreamersinc on Etsy which took WAY longer to put together than I anticipated, but turned out really lovely (no wonder she charges $75 for the completed versions). I also found some amazing orange buckets with a number 3 on them completely by accident at Michaels and filled them with white and yellow daisies, orange carnations, and something pink – youthful (and, by happy coincidence, cheap) flowers. My amazing sister baked and decorated a bunch of butterfly shaped sugar cookies for us (which was actually what Olyla wanted instead of cake). But we did have cake: one layer of yellow cake, one layer of strawberry cake (from this recipe) with cream cheese frosting and fresh strawberries in the center. (In hindsight, you should never layer fresh strawberries in a cake – it makes things mushy, and even if you layer it between frosting on both sides, the sugar from the frosting will make the strawberries start to leak juice). The mango flavored number 3 lollipop was from the awesome VintageConfections on Etsy.

birthday gifts collage
Normally I wouldn’t show off the gifts my daughter got, but my sister took the prize for most creative wrapping job and I just have to show it off. I was a little worried O wouldn’t want to tear open her robot, but I guess she was just caught up in the paper-ripping moment. All in all it was a spectacular birthday.

outdoor party collage big

Left to right: 1. When told she had to wait for her cousin to finish eating before we could go inside for cake, she responded with the stare down. 2. Oren wanted to celebrate too. 3. Grown guys in pointy party hats is always fun, but that O decided to pass out the “drinks” from the ring toss to everyone was even better.

3rd birthday 077

One more of the cake – cause I love it!

 

Planning O’s 3rd Birthday Party

This is the outfit she picked today (she's also recently mastered the stink face)

This was today’s outfit choice (she’s also recently mastered the stink face)

I just realized that having complete creative freedom (which I love) over my children’s birthday parties isn’t going to last much longer. Actually, I’m pretty sure this is the last party I’ll be able to dream up all on my own. O is turning 3 in a few months and already enjoys issuing commands and expressing her strong opinions (one of my favorites, complete with finger wag, is “No no no, Mama. No singing!”).

So, even though I have another baby who’s still too young to tell me he doesn’t want to wear the adorable faux suspenders and bow-tie I picked out, I’m sure by the time Number 2’s first birthday rolls around, O will have gained the ability to telepathically communicate his desires for him.

Soon, I imagine I’m going to have to come up with amazing parties based on vague but intense requests like: a big green garbage truck, sparkle magic, flying sharks or tomato soup (I had a nightmare about that last one). But for now I want O’s party to just be a reflection of her personality and interests at this time in her life. Last year I did a moon and stars birthday party because she was obsessed with seeing the celestial bodies every evening on our summertime walks. This year almost spoke for itself. Here’s a list of our most common exchanges:

  • What do you want to wear today? “This orange shirt,” grabbing well-worn Halloween t-shirt (pants are always optional in her book).
  • What do you want for breakfast? “Orange juice.” (repeat answer at all meal times)
  • We’re at the grocery store, what do we need? She points to a package probably containing candied octopus or something equally disgusting and says, “Orange box. In the cart, please.”
  • Here’s your lunch, honey. “Nooooo, orange bowl!!!!”
my rough but awesome cake idea

my rough but awesome cake idea

But, a party just based on a single color seemed a little boring. So, after looking around online for ideas, I found a gorgeous orange and blue party invite that inspired an accent color. And I kept my ears open for any new favorites cementing in my preschooler’s mind. Luckily, (since we’re t-minus 2 months for this party) more inspiration came quickly: O started talking about butterflies randomly and then non-stop. She makes everything from her toy train and pirate to her princess figurine and squeaky frog fly “with the butterflies” during playtime, and at night, if I tell her the butterflies are going to sleep too, it seems to make bedtime easier for some adorable reason. So it’s now officially an orange party with butterflies (Note: not just orange butterflies because in my mind that = monarchs = Halloween colors. I know, I’m difficult).

VintageConfections Large number 3 hard candy lollipop

VintageConfections Large number 3 hard candy lollipop

I’ve (very badly) sketched out a cake idea above – feel free to share your thoughts and ideas. My fabulous chef sister has offered to make butterfly cookies so I plan on showcasing her talents by sticking 3 or 4 on the cake. And, I think the number 3 is going to be a yellow hard candy lollipop from VintageConfections on Etsy (pictured left) – they have so many drool-worthy flavors, I might end up getting more to hoard and eat use as favors.

The rest is still in the brainstorm stage but follow my Pinterest board for more cool ideas as we get closer to B-day.

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