Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hollywood Slumber Party **Part 1** Planning and Resources

Hey everyone, thanks for your comments and suggestions for the party. With a little over two weeks to continue planning Chloe and I have become super excited. We have been working together on all the details. We were able to get the invitations out last Friday, have picked a color scheme, started making decorations, planned the food, and shopped for dresses. Here is a rundown of what we have done so far. I'm including links for some fabulously free resources we have used.

We made VIP tickets at http://www.printwithmypic.com/ with Chloe's picture on them. I also included a letter to the parents detailing the event. You can leave me a comment if you would like a copy of the letter to use. Unfortunately, the photos I took of the ticket and invitation have been accidentally deleted. Chloe helped word the ticket, and picked the picture we would use. She happened to be wearing her Dad's aviator glasses so she looked pretty famous to me. She wrote each girls name in a very artistic way on a regular envelope and we attached a big glittery sticker of the initial of the recipients name to seal the envelope. They were so cute, I'm so bummed I lost the pics! Go here to make your free tickets, then print them on cardstock. We used the filmstrip ticket template.

Magazine Covers:
We also designed some magazine covers also at http://www.printwithmypic.com/. We will probably frame some and use them as decorations. With one, we will glue it to an actual celebrity magazine. Inside the magazine we will replace some of the faces with Chloe's face. When you go to make your magazine you will see there are only three templates. You can change everything about them from the layout, colors, and wording. We made one called Celebrity Magazine and one called Person magazine instead of People Magazine. On the covers we wrote things like "Chloe celebrates her 10th birthday in style",  "Chloe-Spotted in L.A.", Chloe and Seacrest (her celeb crush)- Couple of the Year!", and "Chloe-Actress of the Year." That last one is actually kind of true, at least in our house!

Gold, Black, and Silver

Photo Shoot:
On Saturday Chloe and I went shopping to Marshalls and found the perfect dresses. She got a white and silver one with silver 1/2 inch heeled shoes for walking the red carpet. We also scored a gold sequins dress on clearance for $5 that we decided to get to do a mini photoshoot of her. We figured a girl could borrow it too if she didn't wear a dress to the event. She wore the gold dress and we did her hair and applied a bit of make-up for the photoshoot. These photos are being used for the movie poster and posterboards. This is an example of how we might use one of the photos. We used Picnik to edit, but Picnik is closing soon, so you may have to use other photo editing software.

For the purposes of blog posting I have fudged the movie name a bit. I don't want to violate any trademark laws! For the party it will have the actual movie title. And of course I blurred out her face for blog posting as well. I don't need her picture showing up all over Pinterest, now do I?

Now that we have cleared that up, we are also enlarging the three of the photos on posterboards at Costco. They do this and have them ready for pickup at most Costco's the next day. The cost for a 16x20 posterboard was $14.99. It comes with a white border. I figured this was cheaper than framing enlargements. We will hang all three posterboards over the food table.

Movie Posters:
At http://www.bighugelabs.com/ you can easily design your own free movie poster. We designed our free poster and saved it to the computer. I had it printed as a regular 16x20 enlargement at Costco for $5.99.

Phone Apps:
I have found quite a few free photo apps on the iphone and Droid where you can insert a photo with a famous movie star, or on a billboard, etc.

Hollywood Star Generator:
Here, you can add any name to a Hollywood Star. You can then save the photo and use it however you wish.

Party City did have some decorations, including two sizes of red carpet. I found that Amazon had a different selection than what I found in stores. But most didn't qualify for Amazon Prime. I plan on plastic table cloths to decorate the ceiling like I saw here.

We are still debating the food, as I'm not sure if I will have any assistants on the day of the party. So I will either order pizza, or do mini corn dogs and slider. I will also do veggie sticks in cute individual cups with ranch. Presentation is everything here and I really want the girls to feel they can play the part. I will buy plastic flutes for sparkling cider and spa water.

I found a beautiful gold and crystal teardrop Opulent Treasures cupcake stand at Marshall's. I will do red velvet cupcakes with white frosting, gold sprinkles and a gold candy star with each girls name written on it in black edible ink. I will use white candy for the molds and paint them gold as I did with my seashell cupcakes. You can find the candy mold at Amazon. It has to be the flat star mold if you plan on writing on them.

My Hollywood Slumber Party Board with all of these resources.
I can't wait to share all the pictures with you!
I hope it's a day Chloe never forgets!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chloe's Birthday.....Help!

You all know how I hate birthday parties, right? Well Chloe is turning the big 1-0 in March. This is not one I can easily dust under the rug. She is expecting a lot. Most of all she wants a party! I hate throwing birthday parties. I suggested the idea of having a slumber party and she was all over it. She hasn't had a sleepover since we moved here. At first I told her she could invite 5 girls, but then we decided to invite ALL the girls in her class. Don't worry, there are only eight other girls in her class and I figure, they probably won't all be able to come. She has 17 boys in her class. I honestly don't know what her school was thinking making a class that is so unbalanced. But I digress. I'm sending my boys away for the night of her party so it will be girls only. Last night she picked a theme...Hollywood! Now that we have a plan and I have time enough to execute it, I'm actually pretty excited and want to make it really special for her. I spent some time browsing ideas last night. I found great ideas for activities, but I really wanted to stay away from the cheesy decorations that are available for purchase at the big party stores. Also, most of the 'Hollywood' themed parties, really were decorated more like a 'Movies' themed party. I want to stay away from that as well.

Any thoughts or links would be helpful.
I'll keep you updated as well...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Out of The Box School Lunch Ideas

Enough with artsy bento boxes already. Let's be real! We are currently a little more than half way through the school year. Frustration hasn't set in quite yet, but when May rolls around I know I'll be at my wits end trying to figure out what to pack in the kids lunches. So, I'll make a list here and refer back to it later.

Let me tell you a few things about Chloe and Nash. They are really picky when it comes to lunch. Not breakfast or dinner, just lunch. They both refuse to eat the school lunches in the cafeteria and I don't blame them.  Neither one likes the same thing for more than a few days in a row. For the most part, Nash doesn't like what Chloe eats and Chloe doesn't like what Nash eats. Furthermore, Chloe takes a reusable lunch box that I can fill with a thermos or Tupperware container and utensils. She always brings them home, never lost and never late. Nash on the other hand, takes his lunch to school in a paper bag and has a poor track record for bringing home reusable items. If Chloe doesn't eat something it remains in her lunch box, where I can see it when she gets home. While Nash throws everything away, I ask everyday how his lunch was and he is more than happy to share what he liked and what he didn't like with me. I would rather know that he didn't like something and try and accommodate him next time rather than have him throw it away like I used to do. What a terrible waste. Not to mention they get home two hours before dinner and are starving. That is its own dilemma.

I have a small chalk board in the kitchen where I jot down what I am thinking of making for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner the following day or days. I do this for myself, because  often times, I will think of the perfect lunch for them and when I wake up not so bright-eyed, I can't remember what I was going to make. This little step saves me time in the morning and makes for a more balanced lunch.

I always do my shopping on Sunday or Monday. I like to buy fruit from Costco, it's one stop for the whole week. I wash it, slice it, and store it in the fridge so it's ready to go in the mornings.

I searched Pinterest this morning for some new lunch ideas. I typed in "Kids lunch ideas". Mostly what came up were tons of impractical artsy bento boxes. First of all, food cut into a star shape is not going to persuade my 9 year old or high-schooler to eat it. I didn't find any of these lunches to be practical. I'm not an artist and I'm not going to wake up 30 minutes earlier to color coordinate their fruit and turn their sandwiches into funny faces! I already make a hot breakfast and two completely separate lunches. I usually have 4 dirty pans in the sink by the time we leave for school! You will get a few different ideas by searching "school lunch ideas" instead.

Our Unbento Lunchbox
Today Chloe had soup and crackers with an apple. She eats the Gripz cookies at snack. I can't give her much more than that because they really don't have all that much time to eat. She is a pretty slow eater to begin with. If I give Chloe pasta for lunch and fruit, I always put the pasta in a one-cup container, and the fruit in a one and a half or two-cup container.

I'm going to attempt to separate this list into three parts. One for Chloe, one for Nash, and one for both.

Chloe's Lunches
Teriyaki chicken and rice (in thermos) this is her favorite
Plain pasta w/evoo
Nutella sandwich (occasionally)
Apple (sometimes sliced with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar because it masks the browning)

Nash's Lunches
Grilled cheese
PB with no J
Peanut butter and cracker sandwiches

Salad with croutons and chopped meat (Glad salad containers with snap in dressing cups. At Target.)
Cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches
Cream cheese on a bagel (on Bagel Thins)
Turkey, salami, or roast beef sandwich
Strawberries, hulled
Pineapple chunks
Melon chunks
Kiwi quarters
Orange wedges
Shelled edamame

They both get water everyday and one pantry item each day. A pantry item is anything that comes in a bag, ,box or wrapper, IE: granola bar, pretzels, etc. I use the small snack bags to maintain proper portions. Chloe gets an organic chocolate milk two times per week.

Here are some ideas I got from the web:
Milk in a thermos with a side of cereal
Hot dog in boiling water in a thermos with a bun and condiments on the side.
Waffle sandwich? Hmmm, I'll have to think about this one.

I know my lists aren't very long. I would love your ideas!
What do you pack in your kid's lunches?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sneak Attack

I get an evil type of joy from sneaking healthy food into my children's growning bodies. I've posted about sneaking spinach into smoothies before, but I couldn't help sharing again. Today I even snuck in some tofu! There is no recipe here. I'll just tell you what I put in this monster. It was based soley on what I had on hand. One banana, some frozen peaches, frozen blueberries, roughly a quarter of the package of tofu (the softest kind), a handful of spinach, and a tablespoon of ground flax. I used apple juice to thin it, until it was the consistency I liked. You could use milk too.

 I forgot to snap a photo of it blended, it was just so darn good we drank it all up before I thought of it. I will apologize for the above photo however. I am just way too lazy to break out the nice camera these days. It's so much easier to snap it on my phone and email it to myself. And I won't apologize for apologizing for my photo! I once read a blog post where the poster advised bloggers not to apologize to their readers. Perhaps she thought it brought unnecessary attention to the bloggers guilt. Well guess what? I'm posting this crappy picture, which does this post no justice whatsoever, and I'm gonna apologize for it! So there!

P.S. I'm sorry for my spelling and grammer errors too. I can bake a decent cake, but I never claimed to be a good speller, dam it!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Strawberry Brownie To-Go Cupcakes

Yes, you guessed it, I saw these on Pinterest and had to try them. I thought I should post them before Valentine's Day. They were the best cupcakes ever (in my opinion)! They are brownie and strawberry cupcakes with vanilla icing. I preferred them sans the icing, but I'm not a huge icing fan. They were appealing because they are so cute, but also because I was able to make them milk-free. I made these for my mother-in-laws birthday. We were all meeting up at a restaurant so baking them in ice cream cups was a perfect solution to traveling with them. My ice cream cups came with lids and little wrapped wooden spoons. I was really happy with how they turned out and they got rave reviews. Everyone loved the idea of the cup, it was great because there was no mess while eating it! Monk would have been so proud.

This recipe was originally found on All Recipes (one of my favorite recipe sites). Reviewers complained of two things. First, that the brownie stuck to paper wrappers. Someone suggested adding a little cake batter in before adding the brownie batter. I tried this on the paper wrappers and it worked fine. For the ice cream cups, I just sprayed them with a bit of Pam and added the brownie batter first. Second, people complained that the brownie didn't cook as fast as the cake and ended up gooey. I simply added the brownie batter to the cups and baked them for about 5 minutes. I then removed them, added the cake batter and cooked them until the cake was finished. You can do less than 5 minutes depending on  how fudgy you like the brownies, but not more. Problem solved!

I used Pillsbury Strawberry Cake, Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Chip Brownie Mix, and Pillsbury canned Vanilla Frosting. I chose these because they are all made without milk, however they do have a warning that they may be processed on equipment shared with items that contain milk.

Baked in the paper wrapper:

These are baked in ice cream cups and wrapped up for traveling.
Only the birthday girl had this special writing that was made from Wilton Candy Chips.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Salad Formula and Berry Berry Spinach Salad

After all the football feasting we did on Superbowl Sunday, my body was in dire need of a seriously good salad. I LOVE salad. I usually will always choose a salad if I'm out to lunch and it's not even because I'm watching my weight or anything like that. I genuinely just love them. I try to serve one everynight for dinner. That was instilled to me by my aunts who both make great salads. Sometimes I get in a salad rut and only make the same one or two I have in my repertoire. Last night, I threw this together based on what I had leftover from Sundays feast. Now there are quite a few variations you could do here based on your personal preferences. For me, I have more of a formula that goes into my salad than a recipe usually. I will give you the ingredients and some variations. Also I don't really measure my ingredients for the dressing, so if you have one you use, go for it.

Before I added the almonds:
Bowl of rinsed greens- I used mostly spinach, which I tore into bite size pieces, some iceberg lettuce, yuck I know, but it's what I had, and I needed to add a crunchy green. Romaine would have been nice. I also added a few leaves of basil that were rolled and sliced into slivers. Arugula would be a nice addition instead of the basil. It adds a nice peppery flavor that would pair nicely with the berries.

Berries- Here I used raspberries, blueberries, and quartered strawberries. If you don't have fresh fruit add dried. Dried cherries and golden raisins are my two favorites in my normal romaine salad.

Cheese: I usually use reduced fat Feta made by Athenos or the one sold at Costco. I like those two brands because I prefer my Feta on the dry side. The Costco brand is not reduced fat. On this salad you could probably do a goat cheese as an alternative to Feta.

Nuts: Sliced almonds are my all time favorite! I use them almost exclusively, toasted of course is my preference. In this berry salad walnuts or pecans would be fab. Candied, toasted, or raw, you decide.

Dressing: This is a recipe I found with the same ingredients I used for my balsamic honey mustard dressing.
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
3 Tablespoons EVOO (olive oil)

However, I didn't follow this recipe. I always start with 1/4 to a 1/3 cup of olive oil in a glass measuring cup. Then I just add the rest by eye and taste it. I honestly probably did at least a tablespoon of honey and maybe a bit more of the vinegar and mustard. I just use a small whisk and mix it until it's nice and thick. Mine was about the color of Hershey's chocolate syrup when I was finished. Other good options for this salad would be a poppyseed dressing or raspberry vinaigrette.

Notes: For our usual salad, I use baby tomatoes, halved, and English cucumbers. Do not peel or de-seed the English cucumber, just rinse and chop. I omit fresh berries and use dried.  I always chop the lettuce in small pieces. They are manageable and truly bite-size. I always use Romaine hearts, chop off the end, slice it 4 or 5 times lengthwise, then horizontal in about 1 inch segments. Then I put it in the cheapest salad spinner I can buy. The self draining kind. I also usually sub Worcestershire sauce for the balsamic vinegar in the dressing. Lastly, I always buy my produce from Costco. It is much cheaper and a much higher quality than that of our local grocery store. Plus there are no produce stands open here this time of year in these parts! Serve this baby with some grilled chicken and you have a meal!

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Importance Of A Good Thank You

Photo source: About.com

For a minute I lost sight of why this blog was originally intended. This is supposed to be a place where my kids can learn from me. Of course, I teach our kids everyday, but I just wanted them to have something more concrete to refer to after I'm gone. That brings us to today's lesson about thank you cards. I am a huge believer in the act of writing thank you cards. And not just after you get married or after a baby shower.

Me and the kids write and send them all the time. I believe a thank you should be written, or sometimes called, to anyone who has gone out of their way to think about you. Of course, I don't think thank you cards need to be sent for Christmas presents. I'm not sure what Emily Post's point of view on that is. I suppose there are some other instances where a thank you card might not be necessary, and you will have to use your own good judgement to decide if and when that is the case.

Today's lesson was sparked by a few people I know who are notorious for not saying thank you. I like to do nice things for people, I like to let them know I'm thinking about them. One day I became a little bitter and resentful that the favor was never either A.) repaid, B.) appreciated or C.) acknowledged. With the exception of the USPS, there is absolutely no excuse for reason C. So I stopped for the most part and for those particular people who I felt were ungrateful. It was no longer bringing me joy, so I just stopped. Problem solved.

I think I learned the importance of thank you cards from my in-laws. They send and expect thank you cards for everything. My family, not so much. Some of them do. I just don't think it was something that was heavily ingrained. Maybe it's more of a Southern thing.

A thank you card is the best way to show someone you appreciated their thought. If someone goes out of their way, they take the time to make, purchase, or send you something, you should take the time to thank them or at least let them know you got it. Sometimes a phone call, email, or even a text message is enough. I'm sure Miss Post would highly disagree with sending a text, but I'm really reaching for anything here people! Of course I understand, you didn't ask them to do anything nice for you, so why should you be burdened. But that's not the point. Just do the right thing, get off your lazy, "busy", or whatever butt and say thank you, preferably in a handwritten card! And if you can't do that, you just graciously decline their niceness. Got it kids?

So Chloe, Nash, next time your out, pick up a package of blank cards, some stamps, a nice pen and a little basket. Put that on your desk and don't forget the importance of a good thank you card. I love you kids, don't ever forget that. Love, Mom