3rd birthday bonanza planning

Kaylee will be 3 in August! That means another excuse to plan a party…and planning is in high gear. This time around we’re throwing a pony party. I decided on the vintage cowgirl theme after stumbling across Alexander Henry’s Pin Ups From The Hip line:


I’m totally not into cowgirls, or pin-ups, but I fell in love at first sight.

I’ve spent the past month scouring Pinterest for everything I could find related to cowgirl, western, and pony parties and I am just about done sorting out all the details. I have several projects on my to-do list over the next two months, including making 6 stick ponies for the party girl and her friends.

I just finished up the invitations last week and I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. (I shot the pictures on my phone, sorry in advance.)

There are three pieces in the envelope. The invitation itself (created in Publisher, inspired by this and this), a personalized “Wanted” poster with the invitee’s picture, and a  ticket for pony rides (based on a template I found on Office.com for Word).


Here is what it looks like assembled, wrapped in a bit of burlap and twine.


A close-up of the ticket. I added a picture of Kaylee and Scott that was taken last fall. She rode that pony at least 5 times that day and we had to pry her away, crying, when it was time to leave. Kaylee’s love of ponies is the whole reason for the theme of this party. I wanted to give her the gift of some pony time without the huge lines. Booking the ponies for the party was the first thing on my to-do list, and while I’ll admit it’s a bit extravagant for a 3 year old’s birthday party, it was actually not out-of-this world expensive. My hope was adding a ticket to the invitation would let the other kids get excited about it as well.


I had originally planned to make a wanted poster of Kaylee for the invitation but I ended up liking the vintage cowgirl design more. I still wanted to include the idea somewhere though, and as a last minute addition, decided to create personalized wanted posters for each of the kids. Luckily people overshare on Facebook, so getting the pictures of each kid was easy. I ran some filters on them in Photoshop to make them look more like drawings then pasted them into Word to add the text. I used Rosewood Std Regular and Giddyup Std fonts to add flare. They read:

the notorious “name” ‘the kid’ known accomplice of Kaylee ‘spitfire’ Ryan
grub, games, & goodies

Aging the paper went pretty well. First, I printed the posters on regular 8.5×11 white copy paper, two per sheet, then cut them apart and roughed up the edges. I worked with them one at a time once they were cut apart.

First, I crumpled the printed paper into a ball and put it into a cup of water along with a tea bag. I experimented with soak time, and ended up liking the stain at the end of 30 minutes the best. After soaking, I squeezed the ball to get the excess tea water out, then carefully unraveled the ball. This was the most challenging part. The wet paper is really weak and tears VERY easily. This can add to the effect, or ruin the whole thing if you rip up a key part of the picture.

After unballing, I placed the wet paper between two dry sheets of paper and put a heavy book on top. This draws out the extra water and presses the poster flat. I had to change the paper twice during the process. It took about 2 hours for the posters to completely dry.

I plan to make 8×10 versions to hang up at the party.

(note: I was working with sheets printed on a laser printer. If you decide to try this and only have access to an inkjet printer you’ll need to stain your paper first, then iron it, then send it through the printer otherwise your ink may run off the page.)

I had a lot of fun putting these invitations together and I’m looking forward to sending them out soon.

[ Here’s a Word template for the wanted poster if you’d like to use it Wanted TEMPLATE. You’ll need Microsoft Word, Rosewood Std Regular font, and Giddyup Std font to make it work. ]


cookies for santa


We added making cookies for Santa to our holiday traditions this year. Kaylee participated only through bribery with her own bowl of peanut butter chips.

the saddest pumpkin carving ever…and trick-or-treating

Kaylee helped clean out the pumpkin guts this year. Once some of the slime touched her fingers she was done though. She much preferred coloring the outside instead.

We helped with the carving.

Then somewhere along the way she completely lost it for no apparent reason (it’s hard to tell these days if she’s  upset because she’s teething, tired, or just being a typical terrible two year old. Sometimes she’s all three rolled into one), and never really bounced back. In fact, she woke up from her nap even more grouchy than before.

(Although you can’t tell here) the first time she smiled all day was when we told her it was time to get her costume on and go trick-or-treating (She’s a curious george fanatic – hence the monkey suit). She was happy and spunky and had a great time. We stopped in at about 10 houses and she came home with quite a haul in candy. It was as if the past few hours never happened. There’s no denying she’s a two year old.

Once we got back she reverse trick-or-treated; running to the door, holding out her bag, and saying “trick-or-treat” whenever kids rang our doorbell. We also learned that while she’s never had a candy bar, she’s somehow proficient at opening wrappers all by herself. It seemed like every time we turned around she had another one open, even after we thought we confiscated everything. She ate about 3 fun-size bars, part of a Hershey’s Kiss, and a handful of M&M’s by the time the night was over and went to bed in a sugar coma – a happily perfect ending to what started out as the saddest Halloween ever.

Bringing Baby Home: “it’s all about me”

I’ve been sort-of obsessing lately about what I’m going to wear post delivery. I know it’s supposed to be all about that adorable outfit we’ll be brining baby home in. I spent way more time than I should have picking out the cute little Gap number for Kaylee that she didn’t get to wear because she was so impossibly tiny. Even the newborn size clothes grandma rushed out to buy for her didn’t really fit until a few weeks after she was born. Plus, she lived in side-snap tees and a diaper for months because she HATED having anything put over her head. Not to mention the whole swaddling thing negates the need for cutsie clothes and she was almost always mummy-wrapped lest we unleash the beast that lay just beneath her overly sensitive newborn skin and those flailing arms of doom. As such, I’m packing two side-snap tees, one newborn and one 0-3,  a pair of stretchie pants and a bunting (okay, so it has cutsie bear ears on the hood, but it will be the dead of winter after all).  We’re going to adore him no matter what he has on anyway.

I wore standard issue hospital gowns (and the weird mesh underwear you hear about all over the Internet) during my stay despite having packed nursing pjs and my own undies. You might think you have an idea of the mess… multiply that picture in your head by 2, or 3, or 10. You’ve spent 9 months building up an excess of fluid in your body that now has to come back out again, with a vengence. I understood rather quickly that anything I owned was not coming back home with me if I wore it. In fact, I came to appreciate the hospital gown so much that I was tempted to swipe (and I did steal a few pairs of the underwear).  My worst decision was to bring my favorite jeans with me to wear home. HHAHAHA….yeah, that wasn’t happening. Even if I could have managed to bend and wiggle enough to get them on, my legs were too swolen from the IV fluids to bother. I ended up going home in what I came in, a dress and flipflops. I want to avoid that this time around.

Enter…My Going-Home Outfit (pictures above):
Maternity French Terry Lounge Hoodie in Barnswallow
Women’s Sherpa Lined Slippers in Sawdust
Women’s Cozy Socks in Coconut Milk
Maternity Roll-panel Yoga Pants
and a nursing tank (still shopping)

It should also make a decent outfit to throw on when someone stops by to visit the baby or if I want to look sort-of put together before Scott gets home from work. I neglected to put enough (any) effort into my own clothes for my first birth. I lived in sweat pants, nursing tanks, and a robe while I was off on leave. I even wore slippers constantly for the first time in my life because my feet were always cold, in the middle of August no less. Nothing in my closet besides these few items fit right – it was all either too big or too small. I always felt frumpy when people came to visit. Not a good combination when mixed with the hormones and exhaustion of being a new parent. Although I kept a few maternity clothes from last time, I ended up buying a mostly new wardrobe – spending more money on first/second trimester duds in the hopes that I’ll be able to use them to get through the awkward tranisition back to real clothes for work in the spring.

I think I’m almost ready…now I just need to get the rest of the pack(ing) in order.

the BIG news

So…I’m pregnant. About 22 weeks along now and we just found out we’re having a boy!

This pregnancy has been remarkably different than my first in some ways, and not so much in others. I’ve spent the first few months very sick, extremely tired, overly sensitive to smells. I lost a bunch of weight, which threw my doctors into a tizzy, and I spent several weeks on a slew of drugs for nausea and heartburn. Then, as if someone flipped a switch, a few days after entering the second trimester my symptoms all but vanished. I’m not off the hook yet though. My last appointment revealed he’s currently in breach position and I have to go in for an extra ultrasound in a couple of weeks to make sure he flips around before the birth.

Also new this time; having a needy toddler full of boundless energy running around the house kinda puts a damper on the whole rest thing too. After putting in 8+ hours at work I’m often too tired to play in the manner Kaylee is used to which is hard on her too. She’s learning to be more patient with me and I’m doing my best to bring my A-game to the few hours we spend together each night. I’m thankful that the timing is such that it coincides with the holidays and I’ll get to spend the last few weeks before the birth on vacation at home.

I find it interesting that I’m much less worried this time around. I drink caffeine with abandon, partake in glass of wine now and then, I even ate a burger that wasn’t well done and a sandwich filled to the brim with lunch meat without batting an eye. I lift things I probably shouldn’t, and have my belly regularly poked, kicked, and plopped on by Kaylee without pause.

I do however still find myself overly concerned with my first-born though. I spend more time than I care to admit pondering how Kaylee will adjust to being a big sister and big life changes in her near future. Should we push the binky issue now and risk possible regression once they’re back in the house again in a few months? Same goes for potty training, and moving to a big girl bed in time to pass the crib down to number 2. I’m so preoccupied with my first baby that I just barely started thinking about the new baby’s room. Last time I already had colors picked out just a few weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Scott went to all of my doctor appointments for Kaylee and has only been to one so far this time around. And, we didn’t even bother talking about names until a half-hearted attempt about a week ago.This poor kid isn’t even born yet and he is already living in his big sister’s shadow.

The truth is we used to have a lot more time, and then we had a baby. Now it feels like there’s not much room left to fit in all the additional stuff that comes along with another. But our calendar is full, not our hearts, and eventually we’ll make room. Right now it’s just easier to give priority to the one who’s already here and worry about the rest later. I have no doubt he’ll have his turn in the spotlight when the time comes.

In case you’re wondering, I threw the announcement together in Publisher, based on inspiration here and here.

Kaylee’s 2nd Bee-day Party

Without further adieu, a few details from Kaylee’s bee themed second birthday party. The first order of business was selecting a theme. After a few weeks of debate I finally settled on bees. I had originally anticipated doing Sean the Sheep or Gabba party, but both have recently taken a backseat to Curious George and I wasn’t quite ready to celebrate that love affair quite yet. So I toured the Internet looking for inspiration and stumbled on this beauty of a cake at Zoe Bakes:

Isn’t that just the cutest thing ever? When I saw it I just knew I had to do a bee party so I’d have an excuse to make those adorable fondant bees (my attempt to replicate it turned into a miserable failure – details later) Luckily, Kaylee has a thing for yellow and points out every bug-type-thing she sees by shouting “it’s a bee”, or pointing and stating “ook a bee.” So yellow and white and bees it was.

We kept it really small this year out of respect for Kaylee’s newly found shy phase. I only needed a few invitations, but I still wanted to do something special for her. I searched high and low and finally ended up just making my own in Publisher (based on an inspiration I found on Etsy). I printed them up on card stock and bought some envelopes from Amazon that fit perfectly.

I wanted to keep the decorations relatively simple this time too. I made a banner,

a flower wreath “K” (no pics – tutorial here), and some doily streamers. The finishing touch was 72 balloons, blown up by PaPa (with the air compressor), and strewn about the house. The kids had fun kicking, throwing, sitting on (and occasionally popping) them.

I drug out the mason jars out again, this time wrapped in doilies and twine (inspiration). The little flowers were on clearance in the scrap book section at Michael’s. I used the jars to hold utensils and flowers.

I also made some bee headbands based on this inspiration piece (I left off the fuzz because we were having a co-ed party and it seemed pretty girly). These were included in the goodie baskets and a few extra were left out for the adults.

We scheduled around Kaylee’s nap time, although she didn’t take a nap that day, and ended up with a lunch-time affair. Food became the focus of the party and required the most planning.

I tend to think I have more spare time than I do, and as usual, I had grand schemes when it came to the menu. Eventually reality set in as the party date neared and I ended up significantly narrowing my to-do list down to items that were either super simple, could be made ahead, or both. Enter watermelon on a stick (the family kitchen),

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad (Savory Sweet Life), Bee shaped PB&J sandwiches for the kids (use bee cookie cutter and Pepridge Farm thin sandwich bread), Fruit Salsa with Baked Cinnamon Chips (To-Die-For! from The Girl Who Ate Everything), super-smart individual veggie cups with dip (from Spearmint Baby),

Peanut Butter Bumble Bees (from Kraft Foods) – tip: don’t use natural peanut butter or your bees will be flat,

honey & cheese pairings with crackers (inspired by Hostess with the Mostess & Martha Stewart), and dipped Pirouette cookies (inspired by Kaylee Eylander photography/Jenny Cookie),

rock candy on sticks (Card & Party Store), Lemonade (Simply Lemonade with lemon slices),  and Arnold Palmer (Tea & Lemonade) for the drinks.

That brings us to the cake…oh that lovely cake. Have I mentioned I’m terrible with cake? Something always goes wrong. Icing is not my friend. And, yet, I find myself inexplicably drawn to it. Fooling myself into thinking this time will be different. It never is…I decided to ‘make it mine’ by turning the original idea into individual mini cakes. I bought two Wilton Mini Wonder cake pans that roughly resembled bee-hives to help with the process. Two nights before the party I gave it a go. The bees were fairly easy to do and came together pretty quickly. I was confident I could make up a bunch with little trouble. I used a Betty Crocker mix and the cakes came out of the oven fine. They stayed moist even after they cooled though, and I think this may have contributed to my biggest issue; the icing kept sliding off no matter what I tried. After my third time scraping it off and putting it back on, I had half a tub left and zero patience. I managed to get the first one all cleaned up again and tossed it in the fridge before dragging myself off to bed, accepting my defeat. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to make 16 cakes, even if I stayed up all night to do it. So, I settled on trying to salvage one special smash cake for all the effort, and called it a night.

When I opened the fridge to check on it in the morning the icing had slid off once again.  I’m sure this was the universes way of telling me I should just stop with the whole cake baking thing… But, undeterred, I started over with one of the uniced cakes and cold frosting, tucking it quickly back into the fridge when I finished in the hopes, by some miracle, it could make it a couple of hours. The last try worked, and no one was the wiser.

Much to my surprise, Scott stopped off at a local bakery and ordered a cake the day before the party. He left to pick it up early that morning and the day was saved.

It ended up being a very good thing that it was a small gathering since it was a blazing hot day and the party ended up staying inside. We had just enough room for people to sit and move around without feeling crowded.

We gave Kaylee a Step 2 water table, Little Tykes piggy bank, and her very own watering can (she loves to help water the strawberries).

Kaylee had so much fun playing with the kids that I only caught a few glimpses of her the entire time. She spent most of the day running here and there and everywhere, a blur of curls and giggles. It was a perfect little day.

I purchased  my various supplies on Amazon and from the local Card & Party Outlet.

You can view my Pinterest Board of Party Ideas here

I shot a lot of pictures while I was working on various projects and hope to have some time to share them eventually too.

Special thanks to my MIL for all the help getting things ready to go on bee-day and to my SIL for taking some pics while I was distracted with other things

home movies: Hello Snow!

Here’s what we did this morning:

So, it’s been a while, about a month since my last post. But, I’m dropping by to say that I finally had a chance to get a few posts together of some recent projects and happenings. Those are scheduled to be online starting next week.

This semester has been particularly hectic for me so I needed to take a bit of a hiatus from blogging for a while. In addition to working full time and teaching a class, I’m also taking two classes. Homework is a nightmare and I haven’t had a chance to craft much at all and even less to document anything going on. Kaylee’s transition to the cup isn’t going well (more on that later) and the past few weeks she has been waking in the middle of the night demanding two things – me & milk, and handing her a cup at 2 am just throws her into the type of hysterics that none of us easily come down from.

The little bit of spare Internet time I do get each week happens in the brief window between Kaylee falling asleep and passing out myself. All I typically have the energy for is Pintrest. I often fall asleep, curled up with  my iPad, dreaming of all the lovely things other people get to make. I like to fancy myself as a person who can do it all – but the clock and lack of sleep are working against me these days. I’m not complaining, the goals I have chosen for myself take a lot of sacrifice.  I am hopeful that in the end we’ll all be better off because of it and one day my daughter will know that she can accomplish her dreams too with a little determination, a good support system, and a lot of caffiene.


I know I have all but vanished. Life has been a whirlwind lately and I’m having a hard time sorting out my personal time amid all the chaos. We are all doing well, some of us more than others (Kaylee’s molers are comming in!) and we are very much looking forward to Halloween. I have been super busy @ work, both in my regular job and teaching part-time on the side. Once the semester ends in December I’ll have some more time to breathe.  Our weekends have been jam-packed with activities too including a visit to Starved Rock, celebrating our niece’s third birthday, raspberry picking, a trip to a local historical farm, consignment sales, the list goes on and on. I have a lot of pictures to share, but have not had the time to get them off of the camera. Up next, pumpking picking, ghastly parties, trick-or-treating, and I’m sure, something will pop up in between! The leaves are changing too…oh how I love this time of year 🙂

Kaylee’s first birthday party pt. 2: the good part

Here is the story of Kaylee’s first birthday celebration told in pictures:

Her party was held in the same forest preserve as our wedding. It was nice to see good old Shelter B had not changed much since we left it almost two years ago. The weather was very warm and fairly humid too, but the breeze and shade made the three hours we spent outside much more tolerable.

The birthday banner I made look cute stretched across the doorway. I didn’t take measurements so I was so glad that it fit.

The poms added a nice flair, swaying with the breeze, and the food tables turned out almost the way I imagined they would in my mind.

The cake pops turned out better than expected. I’m glad I decided to make them pink instead of brown. They brightened up the table and all of our guests commented on how cute they were. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the flavor too – they were waaaay to sweet for my taste though. I printed up the table cards with the label feature in Word and used a Martha Stewart owl craft punch to make the brown paper owls.

Here is a shot of the cupcakes, just before they began to drip. They still tasted great in their gooey glory. No one even noticed that they were gluten-free, I guess Betty Crocker mix is the way to go.

Kaylee’s giant cupcake cake. I used another Martha Stewart craft punch to make the edging around the stand out of brown paper bags. It is attached with double-stick tape.

Here is a ‘before’ shot of the lemonade bar, unfortunately I got distracted and never took one after it was all set up. The bowls were for raspberries and sliced strawberries. The jars in the background contained the raspberry and strawberry sauces I made. The 3 gallon drink dispensers were left over from our wedding. I’m all about any excuse to drag them out and this seemed like the perfect occasion. One of them was filled with ice water and the other with my version of Paula Deen’s lemonade (I take the extra time to make a simple syrup first). I bought sippy cup lids for the kids cups but no one used them…oh well. The swizzle sticks are from Party City.

Here are my versions of the doily vases I saw on A Subtle Revelry. No doily in my case, but I did use brown paper bags, ribbons, and craft punches to achieve a similar look. The rose was a gift from my good friend Michelle – repurposed here.

I think the pinata looked cute hanging from the tree in front of the shelter.

All of the kids enjoyed the pinata, except for Kaylee who was more interested in the iPad one of our guests was holding.

She returned to the scene after the goodies spilled to the ground to check things out.

Kaylee looked cute in her party dress and really liked it when everyone sang happy birthday to her. She wasn’t really sure what to do with the candle, but I’m sure by next year she’ll be an old pro.

She seemed to prefer eating the candle rather than the cake, and when I took it away from her she screamed, smashed the cake with both hands and proceeded to throw frosting in my hair in true birthday drama queen fashion.

Then she decided she’d have a lick after all.

After our guests left Kaylee, cousin Emily, and Grandpa had a great time blowing bubbles and playing chase.

We didn’t manage to get around to opening gifts at the party. We waiting until we were back home, then I opened everything while Kaylee was napping and let her explore after she woke up. She ended up with three Puppy Pal Violets. The first was an early birthday present from us and then she got two more from her party guests. She adores Violet and her face lights up every time it starts singing her name. But, we don’t need three of them so I’ll be returning two in exchange for other things on her wish list.

It turned out to be a great day. It was a lot of work, but I had fun planning. Things didn’t turn out exactly as I had hoped, but life rarely does. In the end, all that matters is that we got to spend Kaylee’s big day surrounded with the people we love.

Bath time adventures

Bath time has gotten a lot more fun as Kaylee has grown. She has just started dunking her face in the water and enjoys filling up cups and slurping the water, although she still prefers the shampoo bottle to any of her toys. She tries to swim too, which is pretty comical to watch, and she concentrates very hard while splashing.  The past few weeks she lets me know she is done by attempting to climb out on her own. She often gives no indication, and is so quick now that sometimes I barely catch her before she’s out. I’m hoping to break her of that before it becomes a habit.