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. ]


sensory bin: construction site


I picked up the Toystate Caterpiller Construction Mini Machines (Amazon) pack on sale last week and used it to put together Kaylee’s first official sensory bin. After contemplating what to use for the dirt portion, I settled on oatmeal after raiding the cupboards and stumbling on an old container of oats (I’m really not sure how long it has been there, possibly since we moved in…it is entirely possible that it came with the house) and half a pack of Trader Joe’s mediterranean rice medley. It worked out great and smelled nice too, plus it is all edible just in case she decides to taste-test. Later on I may add a bit of water to make it squishy.


I added some twigs and a few rocks from Kaylee’s ‘collection’ and it was good enough for our first time out. The toys are plastic, a fact I didn’t realize until after they arrived because I wasn’t paying attention to the product description. They seem sturdy enough for this type of play though and I plan on putting them away after play sessions with the bin. That should help keep them both special and unbroken – that’s the hope anyway.

I’m not sure she has ever seen construction equipment so I found a kiddie show on Netflix  called “The Adventures of Chuck and Friends” and put that on while she played. She was completely disinterested in it, but she must have spent close to 2 hours playing with the bin independently between daycare and bedtime – the worst time of the day for us. This is best $10 I’ve spent in a long time.


I plan to pick up “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site” in the future for a book tie-in. I’d also like to get her a hard hat or construction costume to wear while she plays if she wants.

I decided to pack everything up into ziplock bags for storage so that I can reuse the bin. I’ll definitely be putting together more bins as time goes on and I’m on the look out for a larger bin so she has more room to play. I’m thinking an under-the-bed storage box will do the trick.

Food: Chocolate Truffles


Truffles, straight from the fridge, are one of my favorite decadent treats and this recipe is superb. It has been slightly adapted from a William’s Sonoma book. The end result is super chocolatey, with a divine melt-in-your-mouth texture. Try it, you’ll like it!

Makes 25 – 30 pieces


1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup of Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup of Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of Hershey’s special dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder (unsweetened)


  1. Cut the butter into small chunks. Set aside.
  2. Place cream in a saucepan over medium heat.  When cream reaches a simmer (tiny bubbles appear around the edges of the pan) remove the pan from heat.
  3. Add the butter and chocolate to the saucepan with the cream and stir with a rubber spatula until everything is melted and the mixture is very smooth. If the chocolate is taking a long time to melt you can place the pan back over medium heat and warm for about 20 – 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and stir again. Don’t let the mixture get too hot or the chocolate will burn.
  4. Let the mixture cool to the touch, about 15 minutes. Using the rubber spatula, stir in the vanilla.
  5. Scrape the mixture into a shallow bowl and refrigerate until it is solid, at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
  6. Use a melonballer to scoop the chocolate mixture into rough balls. Place each scoop of truffle mixture onto a cool work surface (a cookie sheet or silpat that has been placed in the freezer works well).
  7. Mix the confectioners sugar and cocoa powder together in another shallow bowl.
  8. Working with 1 truffle scoop at a time, use the palms of your hands to roll it into a smooth, round ball. If the truffles become soft as you shape them rinse your hands in cold water or dip your hands into ice water, then dry them thoroughly. You can also refrigerate the truffles to firm them up before coating.
  9. Roll each newly formed truffle ball in the bowl with the sugar/cocoa powder mixture to coat.
  10. Place the finished truffles in an air tight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them. (You can even freeze the truffles for up to 3 months.)

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Sweet Treats, by Carolyn Beth Weil (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

crafts: felt poptarts

I was feeling slightly more confident after the felt ravioli so I decided to try some felt poptarts. Daddy is a poptart junkie so Kaylee likes them too – although they both have a preference for cinnamon and I’m not sure she has even seen the kind with sprinkles, but these were so much more fun to make than brown on brown…

There were only slightly more complicated than the ravioli. The embroidery stitches are two of the most basic and the rest is completed on the machine. I didn’t use a pattern, just cut out a few rectangles and then gave the ‘icing’ piece some wonky edges. Here are the steps I took to make them:


crafts: Koolaid Playdough

We have several kiddos on our holiday list this year. Since we are trying to cut back a bit in preparation of refinancing the house and getting a new roof, I went off in search of something crafty and fun that also didn’t cost a lot of money. Enter Koolaid Playdough!

There are recipes all over the Internet. Here is the one I used:


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  •  2 Tsp cream of tartar
  •  1 envelope unsweetened Koolaid
  •  1 cup water
  •  1 Tbsp. vegetable oil


1. Mix flour, salt, cream of tartar, Koolaid in medium saucepan. Stir in water and oil.
2. Mix over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until mixture forms a ball in the center of pan. You’ll know it’s done when it stops being ‘gooey’. It also gets darker in color when it is ready.
3. Remove dough from pan and allow to cool. I turned mine out onto wax paper on the kitchen table and let it sit while I made the next batch.
4. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, knead until the color is evenly distributed and the dough is soft. I read that some people had problems with the koolaid staining their pots or their hands – I didn’t experience this problem with my stainless pot although the colors I chose were relatively benign.
5. Store in airtight container (ziplock back, plastic storage container, ball jar, tin canister, etc)

I made three batches back to back in less than 30 minutes. I spent the rest of the time making my containers pretty. The paper is from a huge pad I bought from Michaels while I was working on crafty things for Kaylee’s nursery. I don’t think there are enough projects in the world to use it all up. But, then again, I’m not really big into paper crafts so maybe there just are not enough projects in my world to use it up….

Overall, it was easy and cheap. I’ll definitely make the dough again, in fact, I’m not sure I’ll ever need to purchase playdough considering this was so easy and I’m sure Kaylee will really like making it with me when she is old enough to participate too.  The dough itself is much  nicer than I remember the store bought stuff being. It’s soft in your hands but has enough body to hold shapes easily, plus it smells yummy too. Bonus points for being non-toxic, if only it tasted as good as it smells 😉

presents for my quilt group

I wanted to do something a little special for the ladies in my quilt group. In talking over the past year, we have all had trouble with quilt binding. When I saw these handy little tools online I thought they would be perfect.

But, because wrapping up bias tape makers by themselves would be boring,  I included home made chocolate covered pretzels (tutorial here) and put them into brown paper bags with individually hand-drawn snowmen for flair (they are all a little different).

A little bit of holiday cheer for my favorite sewing buddies 🙂

crafts: framed footprints (grandparent gifts)

 We put together framed footprints for the grandparents for Christmas.

If you want to attemp this, get yourself a baby safe ink pad (and a good bottle of wine). I bought one called “my little prints’ by proud body from Amazon.

The ink isn’t as dark as a regular ink pad so it requires you to apply it heavily to whatever you want a print of. I did Kaylee’s hands and feet, and her feet were by far easier, especially since they tend  keep their hands clenched into fists for the first coupe of months. You’ll also need cardstock, or something else to put the prints on, a frame, baby wipes to clean up the mess, newspaper, a baby, and a helper.

I don’t have pictures of the actual process because wrangling her was a two person job without free hands left over for camera work.  I do have some tips though:

  1. This is easier to do if your baby is sleeping or just waking up but still sleepy
  2. Prepare your workspace before you begin and find a helper. We waited for Kaylee to fall asleep then placed her on top of some newspaper in Scott’s lap. He held her feet steady while I applied the ink and brought the paper up to her foot. We did all the left feet first, then the right. Make sure you have a pack of baby wipes nearby (they clean up the ink beautifully), the stamp pad, newspaper, and your cardstock or whatever you are putting the prints on, and something to place behind the cardstock to create a stable surface (we used a board book) – you’ll need to press fairly firmly to get a good print. 
  3. Bring the paper to the foot or hand rather than the other way around. You’ll want to do this in one smooth motion (foot to paper and quickly but firmly press and hold for a few seconds then pull the foot clear of the paper) You’ve got one shot to get it right. Practice on some printer paper first so you don’t ruin all your nice paper.
  4. Don’t stress out, if it’s just not working or your baby gets fussy, try again later. We did her hands and feet in seperate sessions. If you have a lot to do, try getting one good set of prints then scanning them and printing multiples out on a printer.

Don’t forget to add the name, age, and date before you put it into the frame. Some doublestick tape helps secure it in place over the opening.

We also used the stamp pad to get handprints for our Thanksgiving cards.

I can’t take credit for the poem, I found it on the net:

“This isn’t just a turkey,

As anyone can see.

I made it with my hand

which is a part of me.

It comes with lots of love,

Expecially to say,

I hope you have a very

Happy Thanksgiving Day”

Then I added the turkey details. I was thinking about adding feathers, doing different colored fingers, etc, but in the end I opted for simplicity and I like how it turned out.

crafts: wall letters

So I went to Michaels to pick up a “K” for Kaylee, but I bought the smaller size because I thought that would be cute. They come prepainted in white (but you could easily paint them another color if you’d like) and they are made of MDF so they are pretty strong, but still soft enough to take a staple easily. This could also be done above a crib, spelling out the entire child’s name, or just the initials too, whatever floats your boat.

(I apologize in advance for the bad lighting in the pictures… I worked on this project at 4:30 in the morning while I was waiting for Kaylee to wake up.)

Next I gathered the rest of my supplies:


attached the ribbon to the letter,

and hung the ribbon from a thumtack placed near the bow

K is an odd shape so it needed some anchoring to keep it flush with the wall.

Ta da! Super easy and pretty cheap for a nice decorative touch.