5th Birthday

My middle child turned five last week! 

 Very exciting, especially if you're the birthday boy.  I told him that this was his year for a birthday party.  We made a rule a couple years ago that birthday parties with friends would happen only every other year.  On the off years, they'd get to celebrate with family, but I wouldn't host a big party.  My three boys have birthdays in the months of January, February, and March.  Three in a row!  I would go nuts if I tried to plan and execute a big party for each of them every year.  All the same, this year was his big 5 and that meant  we sat down together and planned a little party.  In years past, I've scoured the internet for cute birthday party themes and then made immaculate arrangements to go with the chosen theme.  They're very cute, but they're also a ton of work and often pretty expensive.  And, frankly, the little boys don't even appreciate them.  I've even had a stressed-out birthday boy in tears at his own party.  Pretty sure it had something to do with how stressed out his mom was.  So, this year I decided to simplify and just ask the five year old what he wanted. 

 It went something like this:
Me: what kind of birthday party  do you want this year? 
Him: Star wars
Me: ok, what do you want do at your star wars party?
Him: decorate gingerbread houses.
Me: really?  you know it will be after Christmas
Him: no, it will still be Christmas.  Remember the 12 days of Christmas mom?
Me: hmmm...ok, do you want to do anything besides decorate gingerbread houses like play a game or have a piƱata.
Him:  No.  just gingerbread houses.
Me: ok, what kind of cake do you want?  
Him: Commander Cody (from star wars the clone wars)
Me: ok, do you want ice cream?
Him: yes, I want vanilla
Me: you can have any flavor you want.  Are you sure you want vanilla?
Him: yes
Me: do you want to put toppings on it, like caramel?
Him: no, just vanilla.
Me: ok...how should we decorate the house for you party?  
Him: with blue streamers and blue balloons.
Me: anything else, any other colors.
Him: no, just blue
Me:  Ok, I can do that.  Who do you want to invite to your party?
Him: he lists three friends
Me: what about so and so, or so and so
Him: no, just those three
Me: alrighty then
You can see I had a bit of a hard time with this whole simplify approach.  I kept trying to complicate things to make then fit my opinions and designs.  But, in the end, I spent $2 on streamers and balloons that I bought at walmart.  We had over three friends who spent the whole time decorating gingerbread houses that I purchase at walmart's after Christmas clearance sale. 
 And then we had to tear them away from the decorating project to open presents and eat cake with vanilla ice cream.  They took their gingerbread houses home as their party favor and everyone left with huge smiles on their faces.  It was easily the simplest birthday party I've ever thrown, and definitely the most successful.  No one was stressed, no one cried because they didn't win a game, everyone was more than eager to decorate a gingerbread house, and everyone loved their vanilla ice cream.

I've been schooled by a five year old.  Seriously, he knew more about throwing a successful party for he and his friends than I did.  

I did, however, put my own spin on the commander Cody cake.  I think he appreciated it...I think.

 It's made using two stacked eight inch round cakes that I carved to look helmet-ish.  Then I covered it in homemade marshmallow fondant.  I got the recipe here.

Happy, Happy Birthday to my favorite five year old!

Another project bites the dust

 I'm listening to my kids playing DJ hero in the background.  They're mixing the tune, "Another one Bites the Dust".  Subliminal messages creeping into my post title.  Anyhow, I did get to check another project off my to do list last week.  It felt awesome since it had been on the list for almost an entire year.  

It all came about when last spring I asked my seven year old what he wanted his room to look like in our new house.  We had a little planning session.  Some of his ideas got vetoed due to complexity (he's a very creative soul).  However one idea he had that I wanted to run with was to have a giant map of the world in his room.  The kid loves maps!  He gets  more excited at amusement parks about the map he gets to carry around then the rides or food.  And if we enter a bookstore, he zooms towards the atlases.  

I adored the whole map idea.  First of all, we are talking CHEAP artwork!  And secondly, very educational.  I'd love my children to be more globally minded and what better way to start  than with a global picture :)  So, the next time we went to the bookstore, I bought the giant map in the atlas section ($10 - not bad).  But, that's where my enthusiasm slowed down.  The project got pushed to the back of my list and even though every few weeks my sweet boy would ask about it, I didn't deliver.  Finally, I got motivated and made that map happen.

Here's a simple tutorial for anyone who wants to add this to their own home.

First I measured the outside of the map and bought enough molding at home depot to cut a frame.  When measuring, don't forget that you'll need enough to account for the angled cuts at the corners.  So, add the width of the molding times two and the width of the map together to get the total width of molding you need (of course you have to do that for all four sides to get a complete length needed).  It's always a good rule of thumb to over buy a bit in case you make a mistake.  

Then I used my miter saw to cut the four pieces of molding to make up my frame.  My best framing tip is to measure and cut one side out, and then use that already cut piece to trace the next side out.  This works better than measuring them separately because they always end up being off slightly.  When building a frame, the two sides opposite each other need to be exact mirror images of each other or the frame will not line up correctly and you'll end up with gaps in your corners.

I tried to adjoin the corners of my large-ish frame using a plate joiner - otherwise known as a biscuit cutter.  However, the molding I chose was not thick enough for my plate joiner (thank goodness for wood filler).  So, instead I did the best I could with glue and staples on the back.  This made for a rather flimsy frame so, in the end I ended up just screwing the frame directly into the wall around the map.  I was trying to avoid this so it could be easily moved but, that ended up being the best option.  I was too afraid of it being knocked down while my boys used the bed as a wrestling arena.

I spray painted the frame to match my son's headboard.  But spray paint definitely isn't the only option.  I chose Krylon brand (found it at Lowes) satin spray paint in navy blue.  It required a couple coats.

Before bringing the frame inside, I taped the map directly to the wall making sure it was centered and level.

Then, my son helped me carry it upstairs and held it steady while I used a drill to attach it into place.

Here it is hung up with the bed actually made.  Woohoo! (that remark was for both the completed map and the neat bed)

Let's get organized part I

Every January I get the urge to organize the chaos in my life.  Not sure if that has more to do with detoxing from Christmas clutter or a new year with new beginnings.  Irregardless, its nice to actually get something done that  results in a lasting improvement.  All you multi-tasking moms know what I'm talking about.  We're always busy but, usually it's busy with things that we'll just have to do again tomorrow.  Sometimes, we have to do them again in 20 minutes.  Thus, sinking our teeth into a task that will actually change the way we live, or at least the way our closets look, now that feels awesome.

Speaking of closets, we've been blessed with quite a few good sized ones.  However, sometimes that means just more room for things to get messy in.  Last week, I made a simple adjustment that has already proven to be most helpful.  I added shelves.  

Previously, our closets had one shelf way up high above the top clothes rack/rod, whatever you call that thing .  I just added a second shelf above the lower clothes rod thingy.  

It was super simple.  I bought prefinished MDF shelving boards and cut them to length.  Then I slide them in and added a couple of screws.  Since the racks were already in place, that's all there was too it.  No routing, painting, sanding, etc. required.  And, they were very affordable.  I really don't know why the builder and/or previous home owner didn't do it before.  Because having extra shelves totally rocks!
And now I have a place to store my 5 year old's six sets of Legos he got for Christmas and his birthday.  That's right, 6 sets - mostly star wars.  He's slightly obsessed.  
I used some vinyl labels to keep things organized.  This is only three of the six boxes he now has in there.   I'm liking these labels so much that I think I'm going to add them to my laundry room and pantry (hence the part I title).  Hopefully I'll even add them to my etsy shop soon.
Do you guys have any favorite organizing tips.

Luv Sweet Luv

Monday was my mother in laws birthday.  To help her celebrate her special day, I made a little something to adorn her home for valentines day.

I followed the same idea as the Peace on Earth Banner I made for Christmas.

Lots of fun papers in a valentine hue, modge podged on Bazzill Basics Chipboard.

Click here to see the details on making those flowers.

This time, however, a little heart in the center.

I used my own vinyl letters to finish it off.

And strung it on a sweet ribbon.

Have fun crafting for LUV.

I'm participating in some of these parties.

Best Orange Sugar Cookies ever!

Man I really shouldn't be writing this post right now.  Those beautiful cookies are making me hungry... and not for salad.  I made these last week before my resolution to avoid sugar began.  But, for all you smart girls out there who don't make silly resolutions to deny yourselves of life's simple pleasures, this is one recipe you really should have in your back pocket.  These cookies are super scrumptious.  They actually inspired my baby to learn a new word.  "Cookie"  Yup, he spoke it often while these were sitting on the counter.  Believe me, they weren't there for long.  Enough already!  Here's the good stuff:

Orange - iced sugar cookies

2 cups flour
1 teas baking powder
1/2 teas salt
1/4 teas baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teas vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream

Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, beating well to combine.  With mixer on low, add half flour mixture followed by sour cream, then remaining flour mixture.  Mix just until combined.  Scoop onto greased cookie sheet and bake until cookies are set but not browned.  about 12 minutes.  Cool and frost.

3 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons Orange juice
1/2 teas lemmon zest
1/2 teas vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
2 drops yellow food coloring & 2 drops red food coloring

1/2 cup Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips
Melt chocolate in microwave at half-power stirring often.  Transfer melted chocolate to small Ziploc bag.  Snip on small corner off of bag and pipe a thin ribbon of chocolate back and forth across the cookies.  Let chocolate set before serving or packaging.

Try these!  You'll be so glad you did.
p.s. they freeze well too!