Snow “Sprinkle”

Posted in: Crafting, Eats, Entertaining

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyI can’t believe it’s been almost a YEAR since I hosted this “Snow Sprinkle” for a dear friend.  (Pretty much right after this party took place I got pregnant with Emily, felt pretty sick for a few months…and the rest is history, so I guess a year seems about right.)  Since this party is winter-themed, I didn’t want to let the season pass by again this year without sharing it.  I have to say I had a ball planning and styling this party and I LOVE the way all the details came together.

A “sprinkle” is what you playfully call a baby shower for someone who is having their second (or third, or fourth…) child.  The event was in January and when I saw the amazing “Bundle Up Baby” Printable Collection from HWTM I knew a “Snow Sprinkle” was the perfect theme.  To see all of my ideas and inspirations be sure to check out my “Snow Sprinkle” Pinterest Board.  

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyI used cozy winter and baby elements like yarn, buttons, baby blankets and booties, all in the color scheme of the printables, to decorate for the party.  I also reused my white party frames and galvanized metal serving pieces!

The sprinkle took place around lunchtime, and I planned the menu based on a couple of things.  First, I took into consideration what my friend, the guest of honor and mommy-to-be would like.  I knew what her likes and dislikes were, but I made sure to ask her if she was having any special pregnancy cravings or aversions.  More on this later, but it did really help me create my menu, and I highly recommend it anytime you’re planning a party for someone elser.

Onion Tartlets

I like to have appetizers out as guest trickle in, so to start I prepared my caramelized onion and goat cheese tartlets, a favorite of the guest of honor.  These are delicious and very elegant.  Caramelized onions, puff pastry, and goat cheese, what’s not to love? Another friends graciously prepared classic spinach dip, another known favorite, and accompaniments.  I wish I had gotten a picture because the bread bowl she presented it in was tasty and delicious too!

Because this was a “kids-welcome” event, the second thing I took into consideration when planning the menu was creating a buffet of choices that would appeal to both mommies and little ones.  I always like to try and find dishes that will satisfy both.  With everything else going on when you host a party you don’t want to have to prepare two totally separate meals if you can avoid it.  For me a baked pasta dish is always a winner.  Pinterest has soooo many to choose from and for this party I selected a Three Cheese Pasta Bake from myrecipes.com.

Three Cheese Pasta BakeIt’s a cross between mac-and-cheese, fettuccine alfredo, and lasagna.  What’s not to love?!?  Along with the baked pasta I served some (Costco frozen) meatballs  and a huge garden salad.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyTo wash it all down I served bottled water, iced tea, juice boxes and hot cocoa.  Check out the adorable bottle wraps from the collection.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower Hot Cocoa Bar :: Just Live Life Happy A simple hot cocoa bar embellished with more yarn balls and printables.

After lunch the kids played, the mommies visited, and everyone enjoyed dessert.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyI styled the dessert table with more printables from the HWTM collection, some yarn balls, and one of Lauren’s baby blankets. I tried to vary the height of the desserts to add visual interest to the table.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
Snowflake Cookies with Royal Icing
"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
Coconut Cupcakes
My friend LOVES coconut and the fluffy flakes on top of the cupcakes really resemble piles of snow.  I love it when things work out that way!
My inspiration for the dessert table came not only from my friend’s favorite treats but also from a couple of very specific cravings. She mentioned to me that she couldn’t wait to have “sushi and a margarita.”  It may not have been exactly what she had in mind, but I loved including these fun and special touches in the dessert table.
Dessert Sushi (Safe for Mommies-to-Be) "Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
I made “dessert sushi” from Rice Krispy treats, Swedish Fish, Fruit-by-the-Foot, and rainbow Twizzlers.  These were a huge hit with the kids, especially the big-brother-to-be."Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

Before leaving guests wrote notes to the baby-to-be and hung them on our wintery wish tree.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

When it was time to say goodbye, everyone took home mitten cookie favors and mini hot cocoa jars.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

I reused old baby food jars by spray painting the lids and hot glueing buttons on.  Then I filled them with hot cocoa mix and mini marshmallows, and finally I used more yarn to tie on printable tags.

I hope you enjoyed getting a peek a the sprinkle.  Even a year later, looking back at these photos, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this party.  I think I might be one of my favorites! It also makes me really excited to start planning Lauren’s FOURTH birthday party! And, yes, I’ve already been planning Emily’s FIRST as well!

Stay warm, everybody!

 

 

Gingerbread Love

Posted in: Crafting, Eats, Entertaining, Family, Fun

This Christmas Lauren was in love all things gingerbread.

We read gingerbread books,

Gingerbread Baby Gingerbread Friends

made gingerbread crafts,

gingerbread craft gingerbread craft

played with gingerbread playdough,Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Playdough

gingerbread playdough gingerbread playdough

baked and decorated gingerbread cookies,

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Cookies

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Man Cookies

and made multiple gingerbread houses. 

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Houses

We decided we wanted to share the fun with our friends so we hosted a Gingerbread House Playdate.

In preparation I collected multiple pint-sized cartons…only to find out that they aren’t the right size to cover with graham crackers. Oops!

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Houses

It turns out, as I remembered from teaching, that it’s the tiny school lunch-sized cartons that are the right size to fit graham crackers…

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread HousesWelp, I only had one of those, so onto plan B…

Pinterest to the rescue!  I found this awesome tutorial from Caked Alaska,

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

and Andy was kind enough to assemble about a dozen for me.

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Houses

We used hot glue to assemble them, so they were very sturdy but not 100% edible.  If I had more time (and I wasn’t making these for preschoolers who might not be so gentle) I would have used candy melts or royal icing (see recipe below) to assemble the houses.  (As a related note, I’m still finding hot glue strings in my kitchen! My counters may never be the same.)

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

We cut rectangles from leftover foam core (like what you use for science fair displays, avaliable at craft stores) to mount the houses on.  We also attached a sugar cone “tree.”  We covered the ugly jagged edges with red Christmas ribbon.

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

I LOVE the way they came out!

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House PartyFor the playdate we set up a child-sized table and chairs and put out a variety of goodies for decorating (and eating).

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

I gave each child small cup of white royal icing and a popsicle stick for glueing on their candy.  I also gave them a cup of green royal icing for the trees. The royal icing is SO easy to make, and it worked great!

Royal Icing

2 egg whites

1 Tablespoon water

1 pound powdered sugar

In a large bowl, whisk egg whites and water until foamy.  Add powdered sugar and whisk until thickened to desired consistency.

(I used my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, but I think you could even do this by hand.)

All in all, it was a really fun day with friends.  Surprisingly, it was not too messy either. Seriously! Andy and I  enjoyed decorating our own gingerbread houses too, so it definitely a fun activity for all ages.  We think these little houses are so much cuter than the store bough kits and so much easier than my usual 100% homemade house.  I’m sure they’ll become a yearly tradition in our house, and to me, family traditions are what make Christmas special.

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

Stamped-Tissue Paper Apple Tree

Posted in: Crafting

Stamped Tissue Paper Apple TreeOf all the apple “activities” we’ve done, I think this is my favorite.  Lauren’s loved the creative painting technique so much that it just might be her favorite too.  (I’ll have to ask.)  Not only is this a great fall activity, but it’s fun to use to reinforce shapes, specifically circles and rectangles.  It’s also serves as great fine motor practice from the not only the stamping, but also the crumpling and gluing of the tissue paper “apples.”

Here’s what you’ll need:

manilla or white paper for the background

brown construction paper (for the tree trunk)

scissors (if you aren’t ready for scissors kids could tear the trunk and tissue paper)

green paint

paint tray

empty toilet paper roll(s)

red tissue paper (or construction paper although tissue is easier to crumple)

glue

tray for glue

Stamped Tissue Paper Apple Tree

It was a really nice day, so we decided to craft outside on the deck.

First, we cut a brown rectangle for our apple tree’s trunk.  Lauren has been working on shapes, especially the tricky rectangle, and cutting at school, so this was perfect for her to do.  Then we glued it down.  Gluing is another big skill for three-year-olds in preschool right now.  (There’s been LOTS of supervised cutting and gluing going on in our house lately.)

Stamped Tissue Paper Apple Tree

Next, it was time to paint, or stamp.  The bad news was we were out of green washable paint.  The good news was that we had two great green acrylic paints (that explains the lovely “painting shirt.”)  Lauren LOVES to paint and lately she’s been greatly entertained by painting with non-traditional items.  (She even painted with a marshmallow at school the other day.  So silly!) I highly recommend letting your little ones try painting with not only a variety of paint brushes, but also other household items.

Stamped Tissue Paper Apple Tree

Stamping the “circle” shaped leaves was really fun.

Stamped Tissue Paper Apple Tree

Voila!

Stamped Tissue Paper Apple TreeOnce our tree was full of green leaves, it was time to add the apples.  Lauren cute small pieces of red tissue from a larger sheet.  Then, she crumpled the pieces into “apples.”

It got a little too windy, so we had to move inside to finish.

It got a little too windy, so we had to move inside to finish.

Lauren dipped the apples into a little pool of glue and stuck them on her tree. (More great fine motor practice. Look at those pincers in actions!)

Stamped Tissue Paper Apple TreeAll finished! (Be sure to let the apple dry completely before hanging up!)

Preparing for “Poppy”

Posted in: Crafting, Eats, Family

Baby “Poppy” will be here in a matter of days now, and I think we’re as prepared as we can be.  Here’s a bit of what’s been keeping me busy preparation-wise.

Nursery

Poppy’s nursery is ready (see more about how we updated it by clicking here).  All the baby clothes, blankets, burp cloths, etc… are washed and standing by!

What to pack for the hospital

My hospital bags are packed and ready to go too! (See this post for more details on what I packed for the hospital.)

I’ve stocked the freezer with some of our favorite meals, so we can have some easy, but tasty dinners without too much  effort once we get home.

Chicken Soft Tacos

We’ve got Chicken Soft Tacos, Salisbury Steak, Chicken Spaghetti, Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Double-Stuffed Potatoes, Chili, and even Chocolate Chip Banana Bread waiting for us.  (Click the pink links for the recipes.)

Hum, what else…

mail-in ballots

We completed our “Mail-In Ballots” for the New Jersey gubernatorial and local races.  Election Day is a just a week or so after “Baby Day,” so it will be nice not to have to head out to the polls.

I also went ahead and updated our address list for our birth announcements/Christmas cards.  I’m trying to do everything I can think of now, so we can all just relax and enjoy the new baby as much as possible once she’s here.

The infant car seat is ready, and the baby swing and Pack-n-Play have been reassembled thanks to Andy.

I’ve have appointments for one final mani and pedi and to get my hair “touched-up,” so I look and feel as good as possible for my baby girl.  I think freshly highlighted blonde hair can make up for a multitude of other beauty sins, which I’m sure to be committing in the early days with a newborn.

Lastly, the  most important thing to me was making preparations for Lauren.  I want to make sure she still has lots of fun and gets as much attention as possible during the transition time.

Big Sister Gift Baskets

I put together a little treat basket for her for each day I’m in the hospital.  Of course, the biggest gift of all will be her new baby sister, and I know she couldn’t more excited, but I think the treats are a nice bonus too.  Hopefully, they’ll give her a little something to do when she visits us as well.

I starting picking up little things I thought she’d like over the summer.  Buying things early and little by little allowed me to use coupons and pick things up on sale.  It was hard to know what she’d be into by the time the baby was born, but eventually, a few themes came together.

Horse Themed Gift Basket

Horse Themed Basket – includes a Barbie Pony Coloring Book and Storybook, Melissa & Doug Horse Stamp Set, Derby Pony Tube, Name Stickers, “Pony Party” Crayons, Monogrammed Notebook, and a Glitter Pencil

DSC_6265 copy

“My Little Pony” Themed Basket – includes MLP Coloring Book and Activity Pack, Stickers, Stuffed Rainbow Dash (Lauren’s favorite), Glitterati Crayons, and a Glitter Pencil

Halloween Themed Basket

“Halloween” Themed Basket – includes Fancy Nancy Halloween or Bust, Curious George BooFest DVD, Pumpkin Craft Kit, Pumpkin Notebook, Glitter Pens, Halloween Pencil, Jelly Beans & Lollipop

It was fun for me to put everything together (I may have gone a little overboard), and hopefully she’ll like the little goodies.

With the baby being born right at the beginning of the holiday season, I know we’ll be extra busy this year.  As much as possible, I don’t want my sleep deprivation to cause Lauren to miss out on the holiday traditions we normally enjoy.

2013 Christmas Book Advent

To help with this I’ve already prepared her Christmas Book Advent for the year.  (To see more details click here.) I even have the books wrapped and waiting for December 1st.

2013 Elf on the Shelf

Everything for our Elf on the Shelf, Rainbow’s visits are also ready and waiting.  (See more details in this post.)

Lastly, Lauren loves “activities” which are pretty much crafts, preschooly-type lessons, and sensory activities.  With the help of my Pinterest boards and my craft supply stash I’ve prepped more Halloween, fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas “activities” than we’ll ever get around to doing.

"Activity" BoxI’ve organized everything in a hanging file box with one file for each craft or lesson.  The file holds all the prepped supplies so all I have to do is choose one and enjoy spending time with Lauren.  When possible, I included a holiday book to go along with the activity.  We already completed some of the files and I really like having everything ready to go in this way.  It’s something that I think is really helpful even without a newborn in the house.

The few hours a week that Lauren’s been at preschool has really helped me get everything done!

And now, I’m going to try and do something I refused to do when I was preganant with Lauren.  I’m going to try and take a little extra time to relax and put my feet up.  I’m going to try and just enjoy being pregnant and use it as my excuse to be lazy until the big day.  Wish me luck between now and then, and of course, for the BIRTHday!

 

{Wreath of the Month:} October

Posted in: Crafting, Homekeeping

Introducing my new and improved October Wreath of the Month:

Halloween DecoMesh WreathFor the past couple of years I’ve been wanting to improve upon my original October WOTM.  Well, after purchasing the supplies back in August I’m happy to say I FINALLY did it!  I love how my new mesh wreath turned out!

Here’s a peak at some of the rest of our Halloween decor: Read more

Room on the Broom Shape Witch Craft

Posted in: Crafting, Fun

Room on the BroomRoom on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is my favorite Halloween book.  It’s not necessarily a Halloween book, but since it has a witch I’ve always read around Halloween.  If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s perfect for reading aloud because it has wonderful rhyming prose and some great repetitive “come back lines” that are perfect for getting your “audience” involved.

Shape Witch Craft for Room on the Broom

At Lauren’s preschool they’ve been working on a shapes unit, so to go along with the book at home I created a simple “Shape Witch Craft.”  Sorry I didn’t get a picture of all the shapes laid out before she began gluing, but you can see from the final product that the prep work was very simple. Read more

Paper Bag Cards

Posted in: Crafting

Here’s a cute and super-easy craft that’s perfect to make any time of year.  I’m sharing it today because I think it would be especially perfect to make for Grandparents’ Day, which happens to be this coming Sunday, September 8th.

Paper Bag Cards

Materials:

small brown paper bag

2 paper fasteners

5 paper squares

glue or glue stick

ribbon

additional decorations

1. Fold bag in half lengthwise with bottom flap inside.  The bottom half of the bag will become the card’s cover.

2. Punch two holes near the fold and insert paper fasteners.

3.  Decorate four paper squares, one each for the cover, insides, and back of the card.  Glue in place. Read more

Too Soon?

Posted in: Crafting

It’s not too early to begin getting ready for fall, is it?  Fall has always been my favorite season, and this year I have more reason than ever to look forward to it!

I’m want to revamp my October “Wreath of the Month,” and I couldn’t help myself on a recent trip to Hobby Lobby.  Personally, I love seeing all the fall, and even Christmas, stuff out in stores already. Preparation and anticipation of the holidays are half the fun in my opinion.  I’ll wait until at least September 1st, or maybe the day after Labor Day (September 3rd this year) to put up my fall decorations, but I’ve already pulled my boxes out to take inventory and start planning! (See my fall decor from last year here and here.)

Happy July! & July Wreath of the Month

Posted in: Crafting, Eats

Aloha! June was a wonderful and busy month for our family.  In addition to having family visit for Lauren’s big third birthday fiesta weekend, we got the exciting news that Baby #2 is a girl! Yippie! Then, we took our big tenth wedding anniversary trip to Kauai (which I still do intend to share photos of sometime soon).

And now, it’s already July! Wow! Summer is flying by.  Lauren had her first day of preschool summer orientation today.  We were both so excited, and she LOVED it! Tomorrow we start swim lessons, and and in just a few more days we’re headed out again.  This time we’ll be visiting family down south.  Anyhow, I feel like there’s a lot I’ve been meaning to share and I just haven’t gotten around to it, sorry.  But, I just can’t let Fourth of July come and go without sharing a couple of cute patriotic projects I worked on.

First up is this deco-mesh wreath.  Full disclosure, I actually made this as a Mother’s Day present for my wonderful mother-in-law.  I LOVE the way it came out and I actually wanted to keep it for myself, but that just wouldn’t be right.  Or would it? I’m in the process of finishing my own right now.  I’m determined to have it done by the fourth!

I also wanted to share these two cute patriotic treats.  They are refreshing and perfect for summer.

I used a cookie cutter to cut out watermelon stars and skewered them with blueberries.  Easy, easy, and these were a big hit with the kids.  I also made this neat red, white, and blue layered drink.  The recipe, if you can even call it that, is from Food.com.  Follow the instructions exactly and it’s pretty easy.  I was skeptical of if they’d come out and how they’d taste, but they were a win-win!

Red, White & Blue Cooler

3 ounces cranberry juice cocktail or red fruit punch
3 ounces Gatorade sports drink, blue
3 ounces Sprite Zero or sugar free/Diet 7-Up
ice cubes

Place the ice cubes in the bottom third of a tall (12 ounce) clear glass. Pour the cranberry juice to fill the bottom third of the glass.

Add a few more cubes to the glass and slowly pour in Gatorade to fill the glass 2/3 full.

Fill glass the rest of the way with ice. Top off with Sprite Zero.

Serve and enjoy!

If I don’t have a chance to post anything else before the holiday, I hope eveyone has a wonderful day celebrating our great country.  God Bless America!

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

Posted in: Crafting

If you’re like me you probably remember making these as a child.  I’m not sure whether it was in school or Girl Scouts, but I definitely remember making Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments, and I’d be willing to bet my mom still has one or two of them saved in with her Christmas decorations.  They couldn’t be easier to make, and they smell just as good as I remember.  They look great on a very traditional tree with candy canes and strings of popcorn and cranberries.  They would also make great gift toppers!

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

1 cup applesauce

1 cup cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling (obviously we shop at Costco)

1 Tablespoon white glue

You’ll also need a rolling pin, a cutting board or parchment paper, some cookie cutters, and ribbon or string.

In a large bowl, combine applesauce, cinnamon, and glue.  Stir well and form into a large ball.  (If the dough it too dry and crumbly add a little more applesauce.  If it’s too wet, add a bit more cinnamon.)

To prevent sticking, sprinkle a little extra cinnamon onto the cutting board.  Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thick.

Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutter and be sure to poke a hole in the top to hang them with.  (I used a straw.)

Let ornaments air dry for a day or so, flipping them over occasionally.  Add ribbon and enjoy!

Notes:

Such a concentrated amount of cinnamon can irritate skin.  While Lauren loves sensory activities, I did NOT let her play with this dough.  I did let her help me roll it, but I made sure we both washed our hands as soon as we were done cutting out all our ornaments.

These ornaments will keep from year to year.  I stored our’s in a plastic bag and they still smell great this year!