The Best Easter Egg Hunts

 

Easter Collage

This year is totally different from last year – after a fake-out warm week, we’re back down to below freezing!!! The good thing about Easter Egg Hunts though, although they’re usually outside, is that they’re over in about 2 minutes (if you’re not organizing it yourself, of course). But, that same pro can turn into a con if the hunt is not handled correctly. Nobody wants to see older kids with brimming baskets and tiny toddlers in tears who weren’t even able to grab a single egg. And I cannot believe we hear stories every year of kids getting hurt or trampled when parents go crazy.

This year we got 2 egg hunts due to interstate travel visiting the grandparents that weekend. But since I have a 5 year old, we’ve got a few years experience. Let me share what we’ve found works best:

  1. Completely separate egg hunt areas by age group. Preschoolers hunt in one spot, bigger kids in another (and if you can break it down even further to 3 or 4 different areas by age group – even better!). The bonus here is that you can lay all the eggs in plain sight for the little ones without worrying the bigger kids will scoop them up first. And you can make the hunt a nice challenge for the older kids.
  2. Sometimes you just don’t have an easy way to create separate areas. For example, we went to a hunt in one small town that was using their large village green. However, they helped solve the problem by having the big kids go to the far end of the field, while the little ones stayed close, with the goal of meeting in the middle.
  3. An egg limit! If the eggs are filled, post a rule of no more than, say, 10 eggs per person to ensure all kids get some. Repeat, repeat, have the kids repeat, repeat again, and make signs. That should ensure at least 60% follow the rule…
  4. Even better than an egg limit? Empty eggs!! If you take away the greed factor – where it doesn’t really matter how many eggs you pick up – kids are generally better behaved and more likely to let a little one take that last egg. Have all the kids turn in their eggs at the end of the hunt by dumping them in a big box, and then hand out pre-packed, identical goodie bags to everyone!

Remember: your local Easter egg hunt is not The Hunger Games.

 

 

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Our DIY Frozen Halloween – Family Costume How To

Disney Frozen Halloween Costumes How To - Olaf and Anna

My daughter (along with half the kids in the US) decided she wanted to be a character from Disney’s Frozen movie this Halloween. After she made the big decision of which character (Anna) and we negotiated how the rest of the family would fit in (“Nobody is Hans because he’s a bad guy.”), I got down to the business of assembling our costumes as a mixture of bought (mostly at Old Navy with coupons!) and DIY pieces (because I do not have time to learn to sew dresses!).

Here is my do it yourself process:

How to DIY your own Frozen Anna Coronation Hair Ribbon

I fell in love with Anna’s Coronation outfit (which I found cheap on eBay direct from China) and convinced O to go along with the green instead of Anna’s typical snow travel ensemble (which involves a dress AND a cape). The hairpiece was the easiest part and I think it allowed us to not have to totally copy Anna’s intricate ceremony hairstyle (we just slicked her hair up in a bun instead).

HOW TO: For her hairpiece we picked out 3 sparkly ribbons: a light green, a dark green and gold. I cut pieces of equal length from each and hot glued them to a barrette (from A.C. Moore). Then I tied another piece of gold into a bow and hot glued just the back of it to the barrette (tip: put your fingers in the bow loops as you glue so the tops don’t get stuck  or your clip will look smooshed). Easy!

How to DIY your own Frozen Anna Boots
Although technically Anna wore more formal shoes to the coronation, it’s getting pretty cold over here, so function won out (plus my daughter needed some fall/winter transition shoes). Luckily, she was okay with it because these boots are clearly featured in the movie during Anna’s visit to Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post & Sauna. I picked out The Children’s Place Ryder Boots to decorate.

HOW TO: I printed a picture of the costume boots from The Disney Store to use as a guide. Then I sketched out my design in chalk (you can easily wipe chalk mistakes off faux leather like this with a damp cloth or finger). I started out with Fun Paint Glitter Glue in gold but the applicator tube was too big and I knew all my lines were going to run together. Then I tried Martha Stewart’s brand glitter glue in lemon drop (pack of 16 assorted colors on clearance at A.C. Moore!) which had a perfect, long thin applicator but the yellow turned green on the black boots. I had to empty the Martha Stuart glue and replace it with the gold in her small tube but then I just traced my design and let the boots dry overnight.

How to DIY your own Frozen Elsa Hair Crown Braid
If my daughter is Anna, you know Mommy has to be Elsa. Since I have a pixie, I knew I’d need faux hair for Elsa’s signature over the shoulder single braid. Doing just a braid crown took less time than crocheting an entire hat and attaching the braid and I think it turned out pretty good!

HOW TO: First measure loosely around your head and down your shoulder to where you want your braid to fall and then double that length (I probably also added a few extra inches to be safe – better too long than too short). I picked a white yarn with some sparkle and cut about 200 pieces that size. Yes, it will be tedious, but turn on a movie and you’ll get through it before it’s over. Tip: make sure you lay your pieces of yarn out so that the ends on one side are lined up (doesn’t have to be exact) to save time and frustration later. Next, holding all your cut pieces together, tie a knot at the lined up end and stick it under something heavy (I put it under my laptop). Comb through the yarn with your fingers to make sure it’s not tangled (take your time!), divide it into 3 sections and braid. Use a large hairband to hold the end of your braid temporarily.

Find the center of your braid and hold the center up to your forehead. Wrap the ends behind your head so that it feels comfortable but not too loose (remember the yarn will stretch) and tie that permanently. I used two of those tiny rubber band hair ties (since they always break). Now, unbraid your 2 tail ends and re-braid them together into a single braid. Secure the end permanently and trim your ends even.

There are lots of ways to decorate your Elsa hair braid and I thought about getting some sparkly snowflake jewels but when I stumbled across these paper snowflakes in the scrapbooking section of A.C. Moore, I knew I wasn’t going to find a better deal. Put 2 aside for your shoes and hot glue the rest to your braid.

Perfect to DIY your own Frozen Elsa Costume
I already owned a blue skirt and I found this very Elsa-looking top on Amazon for $10!!! I decided to do without the cape (partially because somewhere inside I was convinced my daughter would change her mind at the last second and steal my costume identity) but I did buy some rhinestone stickers for $1.99, also from the scrap-booking section at my local craft store, and my 4 year old had a blast sticking them to me. Yes – they fell off all over the place but she went a little overboard so I had plenty to spare. :)

How to DIY your own Frozen Elsa Costume Shoes
I kept 2 snowflakes leftover from Elsa’s hair and hot glued them onto some teal blue Sueded Pointed Toe Flats from Old Navy. These are another totally different shade, but at least all the pieces of my costume were blue, right?

How to DIY your own Frozen Costumes for a Family - Olaf and Sven
For my son’s Olaf costume, I decided to plan everything around the hat but so many of them were kinda scary looking I was relieved to find this Disney Frozen Flipeez Olaf Hat on Amazon. From there I had planned to put him in just a big, cheap white sweatshirt but I couldn’t find any anywhere! I thought I might have to settle for like 3 layered white shirts for warmth when I noticed a shearling lined brown jacket in the Toddler department. Turned inside out, those unlined brown arms become instant sticks and I have my (off) white snowman. Oh, except there was brown down the center for the zipper too – so I actually had the jacket inside out and backwards. My little guy didn’t seem to mind one bit though. Circles of sticky-back black felt were used as faux buttons and easily covered the interior jacket tag. The best thing about this costume is that I can use all the pieces again later throughout the winter – no waste! :)

Mimi went as Sven the reindeer (a close win over a rock troll). I already had a brown furry cape so she paired that with some brown pants, a black turtleneck and inflatable antlers (the fuzzy ones looked really straggly, plus these were cheaper). Of course her costume wouldn’t be complete without an “Official Arendelle Ice Master and Deliverer” medal, so I found a glittery snowflake and hot glued it to some leftover maroon ribbon from Daddy’s costume to make it a necklace.

How to DIY your own Frozen Kristoff CostumeMy husband’s costume was the only one that required sewing but it was still fairly simple. He used his own gray twill pants an Bogs boots to finish off the look.

HOW TO: I started by pinning the grosgrain ribbon around the collar and v-neck of the shirt/tunic. Then I added a stripe across each shoulder, following the existing seam. I didn’t have a thicker piece of ribbon, so I laid 2 about 6 inch long pieces of my 1.5 inch wide ribbon side by side down the front of the shirt from the point of the v-neck and sewed everything down. Next, I cut out a V shape from the bottom right side of the tunic and pinned faux fur along both sides of the V and around the bottom hem. I pinned and sewed faux fur around both arms and the neckline – but not all the way to the center of the V-neck – leave an inch or 2 free of fur there. I don’t think you can even tell in the picture above that I left that empty space in front, but, trust me, his chin would have been swallowed by fur otherwise (it also helps ensure he can pull the shirt over his head – see below).

Quick tip: I found out that sewing trim onto jersey material is hard; if you pull too much, it’ll bunch and if you pull too little, the sleeves might be too tight to get on. To solve this, I sewed 3/4 of the way around and left the a big tail at the underside of the sleeve. Then I had my husband try on the shirt to make sure his arms fit in and just did a quick tack stitch by hand to connect the fur pieces and cover the empty section. Faux fur is so forgiving, it was completely unnoticeable.

Frozen Anna Boots After Tantrum
P.S. This is what happens to the boots after they’ve been worn during an epic, probably candy-fueled, tantrum. Next time I’ll add some sort of mod podge or sealant or something over the top of the glitter glue. But it was good while it lasted!
How to DIY your own Frozen Costumes for a Family
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

How to Recycle Your Old Changing Table

We stopped using my daughter’s changing table around the time she started wearing pull-ups, but we kept it for months afterwards because it was working well enough as a mini dresser. The bins were easy for her to access and the socks & undies drawer underneath the pad was high enough to keep little brother from pulling everything out over & over again (his favorite game elsewhere). But that big open space on top was WAY too convenient – it was a magnet for junk, so I knew we had to get rid of it. It was also time O got a real dresser anyway – those bins were looking smaller and smaller every year. (P.S. I took the picture below after I had already started trying to peel off the reusable stickers – there used to be 2 on the drawer as you can probably tell. There was also a third bin on the top shelf – snatched by a child at picture time – and a soft green minky changing pad cover that looked really nice all together).

changing table before

The Changing Table: Before

As you may remember (and if not, click here), our changing table already went through one small transformation when we painted it white. So I was all ready to give it a touch-up and find someone else with a new baby who could use it. But once I took the pad off, I noticed that we must have exceeded the weight limit at some point because the wood base underneath the pad was totally cracked and near collapse – scary! The drawer was also in worse shape than I thought (probably from rough toddler handling), so I was resigning myself to having to throw the whole thing in the trash when my husband came up with a brilliant idea…

The Changing Table: After

The Changing Table: After

Yeah, he cut it in half; and it literally took less than 1 minute with a power saw. Now we have a brand new coffee table/ train table (which coincided well with a certain Christmas gift) which has a handy rim to prevent rolling vehicles from escaping AND storage underneath for toys. Since our previous outside-the-bedroom storage solution had been a giant tupperware bin (which you can actually see in the photo below), I was very happy with this new upcycle. The giant bin would have fit underneath the new coffee table, but we thought the smaller bins would cause less frustration (and, fingers crossed, less mess) when the kids are seeking and removing other toys. I am still on the hunt for prettier bins though – the green and blue bins we previous had there (which I like a lot more) were moved to the top of O’s new wardrobe since they match her room really well.

changing table collage

Coffee Table: hideout and butt elevator? yoga positioner?

My son obviously has other ideas about the new changing table coffee table. (And no, he didn’t fall. He crawled off the edge, positioned himself as so and stayed that way for about 5 minutes). Whatever makes him happy. :)

I was hoping to turn the top half of the changing table into something; it was too big for a doll bed, possibly a play kitchen somehow? But due to space constraints, weather too cold to work outside in, and the already damaged frame, although I was sad to do it, we had to throw out the top. However, if you do something similar and come up with a good use for the top half of your old changing table, I’d love to see it!

Until next time, Happy New Year everyone.

Planning our Itsy Bitsy Spider First Birthday Party

spider label collage watermark

Unbelievable. It’s almost time for Number 2 (aka Oren)’s first birthday. I admit I used to roll my eyes a little every time someone said it with a nostalgic sigh, but one day it’ll hit you – the time really does fly! Funny thing about time though: when you’re looking forward to something it can move faster or slower depending on what you don’t want it to do. Ten more minutes until the school bell rings takes forever because you want the day to be over. But I’m so excited to be planning this party and loving every minute of it and then all of  sudden I’m like, “Wait… what?! It’s already Thursday?!! I only have how many weeks left?!”

Anyway, Grandpa in California decided he wanted to throw the big 01 party this year and we needed to check off a long-overdue visit on our end, so that decided things quickly. Nana Mark’s monster theme is going to be spectacular but I obviously don’t want to miss out on a second opportunity for cake… I mean, I don’t want to miss out on having a party with my east coast friends masquerading as a party for my one year old who won’t even remember it (except in pictures – which is what I have to keep reminding my husband to prevent it from turning into a lame single balloon and sheet cake type of event). So… we’re having 2 birthday parties; bi-coastal celebrations!

P.S. Since I’m so cool to be having an east and west coast party for my son, I’m also going to pretend to be a movie star as we schlep car seats, a stroller, diaper bags, gobs of toys, suitcases, 2 children and god knows what else through the airport. I’m pretty sure all I need is a funky new infinity scarf, big sunglasses, new books on my Kindle and a secret Godiva stash. I have an excellent imagination.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider theme for the east coast party came about because it’s the first song that ever really caught Oren’s attention – stopped him from squirming on the changing table or fussing while getting into a car seat – and it became a favorite. Unfortunately, the minute we stop the song he usually goes into hysterics, so there have been some memorable never-ending musical adventures. Plus spiders are cool (and my 3 year old is totally into bugs right now – every time we go outside she tries to force an ant to hitchhike on her hand to destiny unknown).

Sorry this post has serious ADD! Anyway, when I started buying things for the party, I realized that most of the adorable shops I love that sell printable invites, etc., didn’t offer Itsy Bitsy Spider themed items. For such a popular nursery song, I was really surprised. Most of what I could find was in Halloween oranges, purples and black – not the happiest colors. But I had already fallen in love with the spider idea and nothing else seemed right for Oren.

So, I made this Pinterest board and decided to emphasize the “out came the sunshine” and “down came the rain” parts of the song. First, I made the color scheme bright blue and yellow – nice, happy colors for a little boy’s birthday party. Then, I focused on those 4 visuals: rain, clouds, sun, spider (I’m pretty convinced there’s no way to make a water spout look good on anything but the invite). There are actually lots of “You are my Sunshine” themed party printables so I tagged a few as something I might be able to use with slight alterations (just add spider, right?). But eventually I decided to enlist the help of a talented graphic designer on Etsy to design something original and adorable for me. Etsy has this great feature where you can request a custom order from sellers that are willing to do accommodate them – so no matter how crazy your idea, someone out there will probably help you make it happen. Luckily my idea wasn’t so crazy (for once).  ;)

Here’s what Mia at thepartyfairydesigns on Etsy, came up with for me (also pictured at the top of this post):

spider party xtra collage watermark

clockwise from top left: invite, t-shirt iron-on design (!), treat bag toppers, party hat

And this is just a VERY small part of what I got for only $32 ($12 for the invite and $20 for the rest of the custom party package). Mia even made me a personalized coloring book page for Oren and his little guests, a welcome sign, a custom happy birthday bunting, and more. Click here to see the amazing amount of stuff she’ll make for you in a custom party package.

So the decor is mostly done, just need to do some printing and cutting, buy a tablecloth, plates, streamers and such. Now I can move on to trying to figure out what we’re going to serve our guests to eat. I give Mia total credit for coming up with rainwater as a beverage idea (and I’ve got a cool label to go with it) but I’ll need a bit more than that. Wish me luck! And please, comment if you have any ideas – I’d love some suggestions!

Family Summer Bucket List: Week 3 and 4

I love that I’m able to see exactly what we’ve done this summer and relive those fun moments through these blog posts. So, we crossed off the following bucket list items: Make Gak, Find a New Playground, Have an Adults Only Monster Golf Date and Make Stained Glass with tissue paper.

gak collage

1. I found a bunch of different recipes for Gak (aka goop, slime, silly putty) online; most use Borax but there are also creative versions made without borax too. I decided to go traditional since this is our first time. Surprisingly, even though there are only like 3 ingredients, there’s more than one “right” way to do it – so I had to try 2 different versions (we needed 2 colors anyway). Both recipes are below for you. First we tried making Gak using the recipe from The Magnolia Barn. I used some leftover purple pigment from Glob Natural Paints to color the Gak which also made it smell fruity and amazing . The end result wasn’t as stretchy as I assumed it should be; it tended to break off in nice chunks instead (which was still cool looking), but it took on shapes easily and held them for a while (hand prints or shapes of things left on top of it, for example) and it had a nice feel. O immediately asked for her rolling pin and began making tissue paper-thin sheets of Gak and then started methodically punching out “cookies.”

Next we tried the recipe from Come Together Kids. I was able to get almost 6 half teaspoons into mine (see step 4) but I was trying to get as much Borax as possible to really see the difference in these recipes. We made this batch orange. It looks like the Borax helps make the Gak stretchier. I put a small bit of each Gak version over two outstretched fingers about 12 inches from the top of the table and timed which one would blob down to the table first. The orange recipe (from Come Together Kids) stretched down to the table in about 10 seconds but our purple version (from The Magnolia Barn) was barely starting to feel the pull of gravity. The downside to the orange version though is that shapes formed are quickly gone (hand prints almost immediately flatten out) which might be frustrating to some.

So both recipes are good but each might be better for different ages and/or different personalities. For kids who are tickled by gross things and boogers, for example – I recommend the orange. For kids who like to mold shapes and flatten with rolling pins – the purple might be better.

Gak Comparison colored

2. Our goal to find a new playground was actually fulfilled by accident. I had signed us up to go to an annual ladybug release event sponsored by our local Junior Women’s Club and that meetup just so happened to be right next to a cool new playground. Releasing the ladybugs to help local gardens and doing ladybug-related crafts was fun too though. And yes, I’m playing with photo editing software again (addicted!!).

ladybug collage
ladybug park dance

3. As I mentioned when I made our summer bucket list, we added in a few Adults Only items to ensure that daddy and I made time for our date nights (which always seem to get pushed back for some reason or another). A new Monster Mini Golf place open up near us a while ago and we’d been wanting to go for months – thanks to our bucket list, we finally made it happen. We were hoping we could go back with O, but it was lucky we tried it out alone first – the place was way too scary for a 3-year-old (large animated monsters, loud music, monster paintings on the walls, etc). But it was fun for us (and mommy won by 9 strokes). For the future, clearly we missed the memo and should have worn white shirts.

monster golf collage

4. I’d been waiting to do tissue paper stained glass with my daughter since before she was born – I clearly remember doing it myself when I was little. When the activity came in one of our monthly craft subscription boxes and I didn’t have to do any work to make it happen, I was even more excited. O and I peeled the backing off a piece of contact paper and laid it sticky side up on the table, then we placed the black paper frame over the top to hold the contact paper down (and make it look nice). I cut pieces of colored tissue paper into small squares and O applied them with the concentrated precision of a focused preschooler. It was a quick project but at least our art can stay up in the window for as long as we like.

stained glass collage

FREE DIY Summer Reading Camp

PBS Kids Summer Reading

My daughter and I read before bed every night but I am always inspired by contests and pledges – and any motivation to read more and seek out new books is always a good thing. So when I found out about a free 10 week DIY Summer Reading Camp sponsored by Education.com and PBS kids, I was excited to learn more. And when I discovered there are activities appropriate for kids as young as preschool age (and up to fifth grade), it sounded even better.

All you have to do is sign up for an account at Education.com and then take the pledge to read at least 10 books this summer. Mom and dad will also be entered to win one of 5 a Kindle prize packs valued at more than $350 – Bonus! Education.com asks you to select your child’s grade and then gives you a great list of summer “Must-Reads” at your child’s reading level to start you out.

But wait, it gets better. Each of the 10 weeks of Reading Camp has a theme (“Bugs”, “Heroes”, “Get Wet”, “Dragons and Dinos”, etc) and at least a dozen activities per week to do with your kids using materials you likely already have around the house. There are free worksheets to download in the weekly activity sets too. They even give you weekly print outs with all the activities and supplies on a checklist so you can collect everything in advance and pick and neatly choose which activities you want to try. All 10 weekly activity sheets and all the activity instructions are already posted online (no waiting!) so you can do them in any order you want. And did I mention it’s all FREE??!!

Here are the books O and I picked (some based on the cover pictures, but that’s okay):

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Caps for Sale
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon
  • Flat Stanley
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
  • I Stink
  • Harry, the Dirty Dog

We will probably add in extra books that work with each week’s theme also. And for older kids it would be cool to make a chart to tape to the wall so that they can mark off each book and see their progress. Maybe get some star stickers involved – what kid doesn’t love stickers on a chart?

Poking around the Education.com site I also found that you can download 10 additional free printable worksheets every month (more if you want to get a paid subscription to Education.com). Why haven’t I been using this site more often?!

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!

 

Ocean Nursery Update 4 – Under the Sea Crocheted Baby Mobile

We had an ocean themed nursery for our first baby, and we’re continuing that theme for our second. Since I crocheted O’s baby mobile, and since I think it’s still comforting for her to have it hanging from the ceiling above her bed (it has been there all her life), I didn’t think it was really fair to cheat baby number 2 out of a mobile of his own. Of course, I decided this way too late so I’ve been crocheting every night until my hands ache. But at least it paid off and I (just barely) made my deadline (yes, I’m hanging the mobile the night before my c-section).

So, first I needed to come up with a new list of colorful underwater creatures that weren’t entirely impossible to crochet. The first mobile had: a lobster, mermaid, humpback whale, octopus and a striped fish. After much debate and pattern searching, I decided on: a sea slug, angler fish, stingray, starfish and seahorse (lot’s of S’s strangely). After deciding on a way to hang the mobile, I ended up needed a few more creatures so I added in a penguin and more starfish (since they were easy and looked good in lots of different colors).

my sea slug

my angler fish

Don’t you love how my sea slug looks like he might also be going to an underwater disco? (I used Martha Stuart Glitter Eyelash yarn). On the angler fish, I used glitter safety eyes from this site and a cool lace for his teeth to make him a little more friendly. The stingray below has pipe cleaners in his “wings” and tail to give them a nice shape.

my stingray

my seahorse

my penguin

my starfish

If you’re crafty-inclined and want to try out some of these patterns too:

  • Sea Slug – $4 pattern from edafedd on Etsy (well written, easy to follow patterns!)
  • Angler Fish – free pattern from Lion Brand Yarn, taken from the book 75 Seashells, Fish, Coral & Colorful Marine Life to Knit & Crochet.
  • StingRay (or Manta Ray minus the mouth flaps) – free pattern from Roman Sock
  • Blue Starfish – free pattern from Lion Brand Yarn
  • Seahorse – free pattern from Mausica’s Magical Menagerie
  • Amigurumi Penguin – free pattern from Lion Brand Yarn

And here are pictures of the original ocean mobile I crocheted for O (email me if you’d like links to the patterns I used for the first mobile and I’ll try to dig them out for you):

octopus (well, pentapus)

whale

lobster

striped fish

mermaid

O’s mobile

The second thing I had to figure out was how to hang the mobile. Ah memories… I remember giving my husband and his work friends the next to impossible task of drilling holes of equal height and equal distance from one another into a large wooden egg for mobile number one. I’m so proud of him for totally pulling it off! But I think he’s already has enough “fun” project memories from this pregnancy, so I wanted to hang this second mobile in a more simple way. I think the easiest hanging options are a wooden cross or a circle or maybe multiple tiered wooden bars (there I go getting complicated again). I found some hanging examples below on Etsy (and, by the way, if you click on the pictures, I linked back to Etsy where you can purchase them):

by LovelySymphony on Etsy

by Yarntoybox on Etsy

by Lovelygiftforkid on Etsy

But, as luck would have it, I came across a gray Pressa Octopus Clothes Drying Rack from IKEA that I’d had lying around the house for a while (it was in my Christmas stocking) and my mom suggested I use that for the mobile… brilliant!!! (and also – duh Nicole!!!). I took off all the clip hooks and I just used the existing plastic loops to hang the mobile pieces from.

Drumroll please…

Ta-Da!

And the all-important baby view of the mobile – a purple starfish is going in the empty spot

Ocean Nursery Update 3 – The Squid Dresser

We’re getting close to the finish line with this pregnancy so I’ve been insane about finishing up all our little projects for the nursery (also called nesting)- the good news is that most of them were started long ago and are just waiting on a few final touches. For example, the dresser. The dresser was delayed because of super humid days and lots of rain which didn’t work out so well for airbrushing with water-based paint (i.e. on humid days, it seemed hours of work could come right off if you just breathed too strongly on it). Luckily, the weather finally cooperated!

The dresser re-do only had 4 steps:

  1. changing the ugly drawer pulls
  2. painting the dresser blue
  3. airbrushing a cool design
  4. clear-coat to protect it and seal in any VOCs from the airbrushing

The drawer pulls were originally brass but are pictured below right after we tried painting them blue to match the dresser. Still ugly and too busy looking, so we decided to replace them with really simple round knobs. Also my husband and I both hated how noisy drawer pulls like these are (especially when your toddler figures out how to lift and drop the handles). Unfortunately, the screw holes from the original drawer pulls were too large (and although we could have suffered, the outer holes seemed too far apart and the inner holes too close together) so Nick drilled new holes for our knobs and puttied the old ones.

New dresser knobs

old dresser handles – didn’t like them in blue either

Step number 2 was to paint the dresser blue in our fabulous No-VOC Mythic Paint (we went with the Blue Cadet color). I love how just changing the color made it immediately look so much happier! I was originally voting for a white dresser but I’m glad I let Nick change my mind. And I never really noticed the cool scrolling on the bottom of the dresser until after we’d painted it – kind of like some edgy design you’d see on a piece at IKEA. (yes, I love IKEA).

dresser and daughter in blue

And the final step was my husband’s vision. He decided on a squid, in keeping with our ocean theme, and when I mentioned that the white splatter-like detail on his tentacles reminded me of a view of the universe from space, he was inspired to add some stars as background (also our little Muffin absolutely LOVES stars).

finished squid on dresser

Forgot to drill holes for knobs on the test drawer – oops.
And sorry about the lighting (we have a yellow sun light in the bedroom) but Ta-Da!

Ocean Nursery Update 2 – Turning the Mini Crib into a Toddler Bed

We originally bought a mini crib for baby #1 because we were living in a tiny one bedroom apartment and honestly couldn’t fit a full size crib  (I even gave up one of my 3 dressers to fit the mini – oh parenthood). Luckily my husband, Nick, and I are small people and O is no different, so we never felt the need to swap up to a standard crib. Little O is now 2 years old and still seems totally happy with it. Pregnant mommy, however, is no longer okay with lifting her into the crib anymore – ouch! So we decided it was time to convert her mini crib into a toddler bed. Unfortunately, this turned out to be more complicated than originally anticipated.

Our mini crib (and most others) will convert into a twin bed, but I thought that would be too big a change right now with baby #2 coming so soon – at least with 3 sides of her crib still up, she’d still have that safe, enclosed feeling she’s gotten used to and hopefully make it an easy transition. Now, lots of full size cribs have ready-made toddler conversion rails to turn a crib into a daybed, but after hours of searching, I’m almost positive they just don’t exist for mini cribs. My first thought was since the standard size rails look like a sideways letter P, maybe we could get one meant for a full size crib and just cut off part of the long stem to fit. But unfortunately the tall part that keeps you child from rolling out of bed (the loop of the P in my example) measured pretty much the entire length of the mini crib, so there’d be no way for O to crawl in. I realized we were going to have to make it ourselves.

Inspiration – the Muu Sam

I found the Muu Sam crib above while doing my search for the non-existent mini crib conversion rails and fell in love. My husband originally wanted to just cut the existing side that would be taken off anyway (which would mean the toddler rail would have slats instead of this pretty flat surface to paint on), but that side becomes the headboard or footboard when converting to a twin bed, so we’re definitely not destroying it (we will have to come up with something crafty to use the 2 short sides for though, when the time comes). Luckily, Nick is great at projects like these and has friends with big tools (thanks Greg!) so he got to measuring. We wanted to make sure the rail would line up with the original screw holes that were already in the crib to hold the 4th side up. We also learned O is obsessed with inserting pegs/screws/bolts into holes (you can see her toddler hands helping out in the photo below – time to get her a baby tool kit!).

Clearly so excited :)

Once the rail was glued and assembled, Nick painted it white – yes, unlike in the disaster of Nursery Update 1, we did it the right way this time – with 2 coats of Mythic zero-VOC paint. We still think better safe than sorry when it comes to paint fumes though, so I was ousted from helping with the large area painting (Nick was also doing coats of blue on the dresser). But I did pull out my non-toxic acrylic craft paint to do the sharks (in our open, well-ventilated garage with stretching breaks). And here’s the finished product:

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