Margot’s Woodland-Themed 2nd Birthday Party

Birthday season has hit! For the next three-four months, I will be in a constant state of distraction. Once I have a birthday theme in my head, I have a really hard time thinking about anything else. I find myself wanting to crochet some woodland creatures this week, so I thought I’d write up a little recap of Margot’s recent woodland-themed 2nd birthday party.

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Like most toddlers, my daughter loves animals. She also loves big slides…the bigger and steeper the better. She is a very brave little two-year-old. That’s why I chose to have her party at Coyote Point Park in San Mateo, the home of a really cute mini-zoo that houses mostly native woodland animals as well as a cool hands-on science center, extensive picnic spots, and a truly awesome playground that features a two (maybe three?) story metal tube slide. Perfect.

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I decided to have a morning party, mostly to honor toddler nap times. I was nervous about a morning party, due to my typical pre-party hysteria, but I did a little extra organizing  to prepare for a possible morning Mommy meltdown, and all went well. Instead, I had the meltdown late the night before when my handmade frittatas came out of the oven looking like ugly, rubbery, flying saucers. I ditched them and my husband ordered Panera catering which we picked up on the way to the park the next morning.

He loves me….and has come to expect this sort of foodtastrophe. There’s one for every party. I always have high hopes for my baking/cooking skills, but realize a little more every year that I should just stick to the birthday crafting and delegate food prep to others who may be a bit more capable…and focused.

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Luckily, the “cake,” which is usually the source of my agony, turned out really well! A few months back, Margot got her first taste of sticky buns at a Walt Disney World character breakfast and, I swear, I’ve never seen her more full of glee than while eating those things. She thought Tigger was terrible, but those sticky buns were amaaaazing. When I decided on having a picnic brunch at the park, I knew I had to make her sticky buns. That’s when I found recipes for these sticky bun cakes (otherwise known as monkey bread/rolls) all over Pinterest that use frozen yeast rolls, butterscotch pudding mix, butter and pecans that you let rise, bake for awhile and then flip upside down for the magical, gooey, gorgeous reveal. Margot’s sticky bun birthday “cake” turned out great, and looked cute, too, thanks to these free Woodland-themed printables I found and adapted for my purposes.

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I also used the free woodland animal themed ears that I attached pretty colored ribbon to for the kids (and grown-ups!) to wear at the party.

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I set out picnic blankets, a basket of books with woodland themes, and a couple stuffed woodland animals and it looked super cute.

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My husband and I had debated for a while about whether or not the sticky bun cake counted as a cake. He felt that a traditional cake or, at the least, cupcakes had to be present in order for a birthday party to feel like a birthday party. I felt like no one wanted toddlers to have cupcakes for breakfast and anything can feel like a cake if it has candles. We compromised. I made zucchini-carrot muffins with cream cheese frosting. Then I found this adorable idea for owl cupcakes here that I copied on the big muffins.

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I turned the mini-muffins into little flowers with loopy petals and candied sunflower seed centers. A box of bagels, a few quartered egg soufflees, and a big box of coffee from the on-the-fly Panera trip, and the brunch turned out to be really yummy and not super stressful.

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The kids played on the giant playground while the adults supervised and snacked.

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Then we sang to Margot (which, surprisingly, made her really uncomfortable), I blew out her candles for her, and we packed up for the trip to Curiodyssey so we could all see an actual owl, fox, coyote, badger, and other assorted animals.

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We even got to pet an opossum!

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She looked so much like my own Olivia!

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We looked for otters, but they were sleeping, so Margot took their place.

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We had a ton of fun playing in the science center, too!

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I was nervous about a party away from the house, but I was really pleased with it and think everyone had a great time. As usual, I didn’t take nearly as many pictures of some of the cute party decor as I wanted to. Jhonen helped me string the Happy Birthday letters on the banner and assemble a 3D paper owl kit we got on clearance at Michaels. I printed out personalized woodland-themed bookmarks and tied them with ribbon to brown paper bags filled with woodland animal bath squirters, teddy grahams, and animal stickers. Each bookmark was a different animal and, all lined up together, they looked really cute, but I didn’t think to get a picture. Here’s Margot’s little bag, though.

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I was so happy with this party. It felt laid-back, comfortable, and fun. Most importantly of all, Margot seemed to love every minute and it made me so happy to see her enjoy her special day.

Margot at two years old

One of these years I WILL crochet thematically appropriate birthday favors. I will! One of these days I will also crochet both my kids an amigurumi to go with each themed birthday we’ve done. In that case, I need to make a couple bumblebees, an owl, a car, a volcano, and a fish.

All that thinking about woodland animals has me wanting to make a hedgehog, a fox (my favorite!), and a variety of owls. I’m hoping to work on at least one of those this week and, if I do, I’ll be sure to introduce it to you. I won’t make any promises, though, as I now have less than a month to plan Jhonen’s Volcano-themed 5th birthday party!

I really love planning birthday parties. Makes me think I should be doing more of it…

 

Recycled Wrapping!

I have a habit of saving paper shopping bags. In fact, before moving here I actually snapped a picture of some of my favorite shopping bags collected from around the world before I gave them up to the recycle bin. Shopping Bags

I find myself reverting back to old habits…I have already  been tucking away a shopping bag from Lush and several from Trader Joe’s.

This year I really wanted the presents to have a rustic, handmade feeling to them and went to Michaels looking, specifically for a big roll of kraft paper…the kraft paper that looks like a paper bag. They weren’t in stock, though, and I bought a roll of white kraft paper instead. But when I got home, while putting away the groceries, I felt like an idiot because there was a bunch of brown paper in the form of Trader Joe’s paper bags sitting right there in my pantry. Not only would I get the look I wanted, but I’d  reuse and recycle the bags instead of hoard them.

Before:

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When I began to cut them up I noticed what pretty designs they had and started to feature the bag’s design in my wrapping. The handles even served a fun purpose as a wrapped up a bottle.

AFTER

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I also ADORE the red and white baker’s twine I got at Paper Source and was lucky that it matched the Trader Joe’s bags so perfectly. The twine looked so pretty simply wrapped around a little twig.

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The paper is stiff, so I had to get a little creative with it to make it work, but that was part of the fun! Unique, free gift wrap that reuses something that can then be recycled? That’s a bunch of win-win-wins.

 

 

Fun in Florida Friday: Easter Eggs Part 1

Easter is a sneaky holiday.  It sneaks up on me every year. I even predicted that would happen in an earlier post. I thought, this year, I will think ahead and prepare accordingly. Again, I failed. I have no bunnies or chicks or peeps to share. I started making a bunny weeks ago and hated it, so I stopped and never tried again. I think bunnies are discouraging to crochet because there are already so many dang amigurumi bunnies it’s hard to think of how to make one special or different. Plus, I’ve had lots of custom orders keeping me busy. That said, yesterday I had such a fun Easter project idea and really wish I’d thought of it weeks ago!

I’ve always found the whole Easter-egg-dying tradition a little underwhelming. First off, I hate eating hard boiled eggs…nothing is worse than faintly pink or blue, rubbery egg. Gross. Second, once you dye them (a messy, smelly process) then what do you DO with them? Do they sit around and rot? Do you actually hide them? What fun is it to find stinky, dirty, cracked eggs? Do you do what I did last year and make beautiful eggs that took up way too much room in my refrigerator until I figured they’d gone bad and just threw them away? And the alternative, blowing out each egg, makes the eggs extra fragile, plus you nearly bust a gut trying to blow the gunk out! Third, you either eat them or you throw them away. They don’t last. It’s just this weird thing you do every year just…because.

So what’s the solution?

Use crocheted eggs! Then (attempt to) dye them!! As long as the fiberfil doesn’t soak through and never dry….my only real concern about this process…I think the results are going to be beautiful. Plus, this is the perfect time to test out a variety of dye brands and shades to see if I can get the colors I need that have been recently discontinued.    

I will write up a complete report in the next two to three blog posts. I only have those three eggs crocheted so far and, as I said earlier in the week, I am crocheting as fast as I can for this Homespun Chic Marketplace event in May. Still, I really love the idea of dying my own reusable Easter eggs….eggs that can double as non-fragile decorations year after year and that can be used for tossing and juggling! I wish that I had been able to make them by the dozen and sell them, but there will not be time. Instead, I will take part in the tradition in a non-traditional way….my favorite way of doing things.

Besides crochet egg dying, this weekend is jam-packed with events all over Central Florida. First I will take my kids to the free story and music time at the JCC of Maitland from 10:15-noon Friday. Then I’ll be meeting a friend at one of my very favorite places to have lunch, That Deli to celebrate National Soup Month (they don’t fake fresh). Then I’ll come home and crazily clean up the house and make Ben’s favorite dish (Linguine with brussel sprouts, bacon and shallots from Good Life Eats, one of my favorite food blogs) for an early Easter dinner with both our Moms. I highly recommend the recipe.

Then I plan to attend the Sanford Food Truck Bazaar on Saturday night to introduce my Mom to the joy of waiting in super long lines to eat delicious food prepared in a vehicle. Never been to a Food Truck Bazaar? Shame on you! They happen all over town. Find your local Food Truck event here. If only the Food Truck scene had been this amazing when Trio Gelato was open. We would have been a hit! Oh well. I’d probably rather be the one eating than the one serving for the time being.

Other than all that, I will also try and get some Easter crafts together for the kids, take tons of pictures of them, maybe go to the giant Deltona Easter Egg event, and hopefully hit up Bok Tower Gardens, which seems like a lovely place to spend an Easter weekend. It’s so amazingly beautiful there with the carillon bells ringing as swans glide by on the water surrounding the gorgeous tower and blooming flowers.

Whew! Stay tuned to find out if my crocheted Easter egg dying was a hit or a flop and I hope you have a great weekend full of fun, too!

Happy Easter, everybody!

p.s. Even though I said all that stuff about dying eggs, Jho and I did go over to our best friend’s house today and dyed really awesome Easter eggs using all-natural dyes she made by hand from ingredients like red wine, spinach, turmeric, pomegranate, and grape juice. Look how cool! If you want to try, this is the website she used for her recipes and info. Look how pretty!

Here were all the natural dyes she made!

Always fun to make an old tradition seem new again. I was glad to get to try it…without having to do all the dishes. 😉