Tag Archives: The Munchkin

Mermaid Party Redux.

My last post talked about why we shouldn’t overdo it on the party planning. But purchasing everything pre-assembled can get pricey, so here are a few cute things I did to save money & personalize it a little for my Munchkin. I was so busy having fun that I didn’t meticulously take pictures of my handiwork, but I think that’s a good thing (except when I’m trying to explain to other people what I did).

For starters, this is the party theme I bought. However, rather than buying everything to fit the theme, I saved money by only buying the swirly hanging decorations (see below), tablecloths, invitations, & dessert plates. For everything else–flatware, napkins, dinner plates, & even a couple extra tablecloths–I bought cheaper, solid-color items in the party’s colors: light blue, purple, & hot pink. I also got balloons in those colors.

The Munchkin was insistent that the kids all wear party hats, so we got assorted solid-color ones at Party City that happened to match the theme colors really well, then decorated them with sea animal stickers together. She loved helping! In previous years I would’ve been too much of a perfectionist to let her help.

(In the interest of full disclosure, we learned rather quickly that paper hats tend to dissolve after several minutes atop wet heads. But they were fun & they stayed on for the cake, which is what The Munchkin wanted anyway.)

Now for my favorite part: the favor buckets. I bought these sandcastle buckets from Party City for 99 cents (my advice: sign up for their emails before you order; I started getting all sorts of discount offers after I’d placed my order!). They come in 8 different colors, so I’m sure they’d match your theme colors. Then I filled them with awesome cheap sea-life-themed favors from Oriental Trading Company. I hate the buckets that are full of useless crap, so I tried to choose things the kids would actually like to use. The Munchkin loves bubbles, stickers (those were from Party City & also delightfully cheap; we bought extra to decorate the hats with), & stampers, so we included those & a squirty fish thing, then a bag of Goldfish & just a few pieces of candy. To assemble them, we grouped like items together & formed an assembly line; it taught The Munchkin to follow patterns!

These buckets would be great for any ocean-type theme. They received lots of compliments, & they were simple & inexpensive!

Next, the thank-you notes that came with the party supplies were the fill-in-the-blank kind. Those are great for kids who are learning to write, but The Munchkin’s still young enough that I’m doing the writing for her. So fill-in-the-blank would be kind of a copout. Instead, I bought blank notecards from Target (again, they come in lots of cute colors) & puffy stickers from Michael’s (can you tell I like stickers?). The Munchkin & I decorated the cards in little sea life scenes. You could do this with any theme imaginable & it’d look great!

Last but not least, activities. One of the great perks of having the party at the splash park was I didn’t have to coordinate activities. But with Tropical Storm Debby threatening, I came up with a couple last-minute things to keep the kids busy under the pavilion in case we had a momentary downpour. I printed an Ariel coloring page & a couple of sea animal coloring pages & had a bucket of crayons. Then we let the kids make jellyfish. To prep, just cut cheap white paper plates in half & have streamers & a stapler handy. The kids color their jellyfish, & then you tear off some streamers & staple them to the straight side. So easy!

So there you go! Hope this helps with the planning of any ocean-themed parties in the future. Just remember to listen to your own Munchkin rather than what the professionals on Pinterest think, & keep it simple: if you overdo it this year, you’ll just have to try to outdo yourself next year!

Good luck!

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The Munchkin’s Best Birthday Yet.

I have a confession to make: I didn’t make a single thing for this birthday party.

And it was AWESOME.

And I don’t regret it one bit.

Way back in February The Munchkin told me she wanted a mermaid party. “Not a ‘Little Mermaid’ party, a mermaid party.” I love this girl! She makes up her mind & sticks to it. With all this prep time, I had grand designs for customized printable invitations, themed food, etc., but the reality of a newborn, & family in town for said newborn’s baby blessing (isn’t she cute?), set in really quickly. Still, it took awhile to get past the mom guilt brought on by picture-perfect Pinterest parties. Do I love my child less because I bought my (still cute) decorations from Oriental Trading Company, hand-wrote fill-in-the-blank invitations, & ordered a — gasp! — supermarket cake?

Absolutely not! I realized that in past years I had poured so much of myself into these events that, not only was I so stressed out I was stressing everyone else out, but I was seeking validation from other people instead of my Munchkin. This year my only pre-party panic moment was about whether we should pay a hefty deposit to move the outdoor party inside because of Tropical Storm Debby. Thanks to a lot of prayer (& even, in a weak moment, an email to the FOX 13 morning meteorologist), we kept the party at the splash park just like she wanted, & we all got to actually enjoy it.

So I’m writing this to let my fellow “just moms” out there that you don’t need to order custom everything from Etsy or specialty bake shops or whatever. You don’t need to impress the grownups there. Sometimes a splash park, a Publix cake, & some party hats with stickers on them are all you need to make a birthday girl’s day.

That’s what’s important!

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Kiddie primavera. (Or, getting your kid excited to polish off her veggies.)

Weelicious triumphs again!

To minimize mess, I generally buy & cook the short pastas, so when I told The Munchkin we were having “slurpy spaghetti” for dinner, she practically leaped for joy. The many different veggies in this dish are julienned just like the pasta, so she slurped them up just like the noodles. & get this: she was happy about it! She ate them on purpose! “Look, mommy, I’m slurping asparagus!” This, coming from the toddler who enjoys carrots, but will hardly touch zucchini or asparagus. The bowl was polished off. Success!

  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 6 asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (original recipe calls for only 1, but it needs more)
  • 1 lb. whole-wheat spaghetti (or, if you don’t have a food processor to julienne your veggies & your knife skills are as atrocious as mine, linguine covers a multitude of sins)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan
  1. Julienne your vegetables with a knife or the shredding blade of a food processor.
  2. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat.
  4.  Saute garlic 1 minute.
  5. Add veggies & salt & saute an additional 3-4 minutes or until softened.
  6. Drain pasta, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water.
  7. Return pasta to pot or place in a large serving bowl. Add veggies, pasta water, butter, & Parmesan; toss to coat.
  8. Let your Munchkins pretend to be baby birds slurping up worms!

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Reindeer cookies.

The Munchkin has been looking forward to making these for DAYS. & they turned out just as great as we hoped they would!

I had originally thought to do spice cookies, but The Munchkin said peanut butter, so that’s what we did! Lucky for us, Bakergirl had already made delicious peanut butter reindeer cookies! Hers are for mini reindeer, but I had full-sized “features,” so I made them full-sized. It yielded 18 cookies instead of 40.

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • scant 3/4 tsp. salt (I felt it was plenty salty from the peanut butter)
  • pretzels (I think chocolate- or yogurt-covered pretzels would “stick” better)
  • green M&Ms
  • red Cadbury Christmas Mini Eggs (or you could use peanut M&Ms, but I’m kind of obsessed with the Cadbury Mini Eggs, so we’re using those)
  1. Preheat your oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Cream together first 5 ingredients in your electric mixer. Add egg & beat until just blended.
  3. (Optional: combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.) Add to the wet ingredients & mix until just incorporated.
  4. Roll into 2-inch balls. Pinch one end between your thumb & forefinger for the “chin.” Then flatten between your palms. Place them on your prepared cookie sheet; I fit 9 on a sheet to keep them from spreading.
  5. Bake 9 minutes or until set in the middle & just starting to brown.
  6. Remove from the oven, & immediately (carefully!) press the pretzels in for antlers. Do this for all of the cookies right away; the pretzels don’t stick as well as the other “features.”
  7. Let your kitchen helper help you press in M&Ms for eyes (M side down, of course) & a Cadbury Mini Egg for a nose.

I was amazed at how good The Munchkin got at decorating these!

Her first attempts were rather… Picasso-like…

But by her 6th one, everything was in its proper place!

Who knew that cookie decorating could teach a two-&-a-half-year-old anatomy?
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Taking a sick day.

Today I’m taking care of a sick Munchkin.

But I’ll be back Wednesday having (hopefully) conquered my irrational fear of pie!

(Making, not eating.)

(DEFINITELY not eating.)

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Happy Halloween!

I hope you enjoy the holiday with your own ghouls & goblins! What are your plans for the evening?

We’re going to make some delicious Witch Hat Calzones for dinner & take our little Angelina Ballerina out for some early trick-or-treating!

Stay safe, have fun, & try not to eat too much of your kids’ candy after they go to bed. (Oh come on, you know you do it!)

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Pumpkin-Chocolate-Chip Squares.

The Munchkin speaks very well for being 2 & a few months. She’s doing full sentences, & pronounces most words correctly, with the exception of the toddler W for Ls & most Rs. However, there’s one word in particular that she doesn’t say right, that I am just fine with her mispronouncing for the next month or two: pumpkin.

She pronounces it “pumpmick.” & it is so darn cute!

Saturday morning, My Husband The Occasional Perfectionist was trying to help her say it correctly. To his credit, he did get her to go from “wewk” to “milk,” but I’ll admit I wasn’t overly heartbroken when it didn’t quite take. A few minutes later she was saying the blessing on breakfast & trying to say “we thank thee that we get to go to the pumpkin patch today.” At first she said her usual “pumpmick,” but then paused, remembering that it wasn’t right. She then corrected herself: “mumpick.” Another pause; that didn’t sound right either. Finally she gave up & finished the prayer in a hurry: “name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Thankfully, it’s still “pumpmick.” & she got her very own Munchkin-sized pumpmick at the pumpmick patch.

Now for some pumpmick — I mean, pumpkin — squares.

These are to die for. Period. I make these countless times every fall — it helps that the recipe uses exactly half a small can of pumpkin, so you just have to use up the rest, right? I mean, just look at all those moist, delicious crumbs! Martha really does it right.

  • 2 cups — spooned & leveled — all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 pkg. (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9×13 pan with foil, making sure that the foil goes up the sides.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl; set it aside.
  3. Cream butter & sugar together until it’s smooth. Then beat in the egg & vanilla; scrape sides of bowl. Beat in pumpkin puree, making sure there’s no unincorporated butter mixture at the bottom.
  4. Mix in dry ingredients on low just until combined. Then fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Spread the mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan.
  6. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with just a few of those moist delicious crumbs I mentioned.
  7. Cool completely in the pan. (Yeah, right. You smell it & resist.) Use the foil edges to lift the bars from the pan, then peel off the foil & cut with a serrated knife. Enjoy!
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Top 10 things I’m going to miss about NYC.

I’m late posting today. I also happen to be in Maryland at the moment, on what is quite possibly the slowest Internet connection ever. The movers asked to come a day early (yesterday), & decided at 1pm today that they’d be delivering our stuff in Florida on Saturday, so we left at 4:40pm, just as rush hour traffic was starting to pick up. Fortunately, we made good time, & The Munchkin only got to bed… 2 hours late. Yikes.

Everything happened so fast I honestly haven’t had much time yet to wax sentimental about my favorite city in the world. But I thought I’d post a few of the many things I’ll miss about New York, in no particular order, & that you shouldn’t miss if you come visit.

1.) This view:

2.) The food. Great Italian everywhere, great bakeries everywhere. We’ve been told that “the water’s not right” in Florida for either of those things. Hearing that made me die a little inside. Here are just a few of our favorites: burgers, chocolate, pasta, & pancakes.

3.) Magnolia. Belongs in a class of its own.

4.) Snow! Not limited to NYC, obviously, but I love it in spite of the fact that it often makes walking in the city pretty gross. It’s still fun, & so magical to watch it start falling amid all the lights of the city.

5.) Holidays. Especially Christmas at Macy’s.  From fireworks on the 4th of July to the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving, to Easter Egg hunts in the park, the city just knows how to celebrate everything with style & gusto.

6.) There is always free stuff to do! We used the events calendars at Mommy Poppins & Parents Connect (I’m going to be using that second one after our move too; they have dozens of cities on there) to find fun new things to do for free just about every single week! We also love ALL the playgrounds EVERYWHERE! No matter where we went or what we did, there was almost always a great park nearby! (No picture, thanks to Slowest Internet Ever…)

7.) Public transit. Yes, taking the car is often more convenient, especially with more than 1 Munchkin, but it just isn’t as FUN! Trains, subways, ferries (we avoid the buses because we hate traffic) — what’s not to love if you’re a kid? (Also no picture, thanks to Slowest Internet Ever.)

8.) Broadway. We got to go on dates to Mamma Mia! & How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with Daniel Radcliffe & John Larroquette. We also saw Phantom & Wicked when we were here on our honeymoon 5 years ago. I’ve been in (well, under — I was in the pit orchestra) lots of musicals, & there is nothing like Broadway!

9.) The “dinosaur bones museum.” This is one of The Munchkin’s favorite places in the world. We got to visit one last time with one of her playgroup friends while the movers were here yesterday. (Slowest Internet Ever won’t let me upload the photo though, so here’s an old one.) We hope she likes the aquarium in Tampa almost as much!

10.) Obviously we’re going to miss the people the absolute most. We’ve made a lot of friends here. This is the first time The Munchkin has been old enough to make any real friendships; she says all her friends’ names almost every day, & she looks forward to church every week so she can see them all at Nursery. We also love how personal the city (& its surrounding environs) can be. Even though it seems big, loud, & scary at first glance, once you really get in there, it’s just such a personable place! We loved walking into the diner or bodega (small market) near our apartment & having the waitresses & checkstand girls greet The Munchkin by name. We loved being greeted by the security guard at the front desk every time we enter or leave the building, & The Munchkin loved getting a cookie at the Italian bakery when we went to get our weekly pizza dough. What a friendly place!

New York really is my favorite city. I love Hoboken too. If you are planning a visit, email me! (See my “About” page for the address.) I’ll send you my guide to “doing” NYC on the cheap with kids & then live vicariously through you as you enjoy the city!

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Preparing your child for a move. (Part 1 of 2: Before you leave.)

We’re moving. In a week & a half. Yikes!

Since that’s what’s on my mind right now, & since lots of people move during the summer, I thought I’d offer a few tips for helping your kids adjust to moving to a new place. Today I’m posting on how to prepare for the move itself; later I’ll post on how to settle in.

  • Show your kids photos of your new home & new town. Help them find reasons to be excited about the new place. The Munchkin is especially excited to be near the beach.
  • If you are packing yourself, START EARLY. Last year, with a husband taking law school finals, I started packing two months in advance while The Munchkin napped. There’s only so much you can pack that far ahead of time (you’re using everything else too frequently), but it really helps as you get down to the wire. It also helps your 10-month-old skip crawling in favor of cruising, because there are handholds everywhere!
  • Also if you are packing yourself, don’t pay for boxes! I had hoarded diapers.com boxes for months. Any time you get a package, collapse the box right away & stash it in a closet. Another great resource for free packing boxes is liquor stores; just go in & ask for some of their beer boxes. They’re the perfect size & durability for books & other heavy things. The people helping you move in might look at you a little funny though…
  • If your firm is paying for movers, PRAISE HEAVEN. The end.
  • Try to keep pictures up on the walls as long as possible. Even if there are boxes everywhere, having these familiar touches will help keep home feeling like home right up until you move.
  • Moving is a time-consuming process. Even if you’re not having to pack everything yourself, there are still things like getting a place to live, arranging for utilities on both ends, forwarding mail, etc. Kids can feel neglected; take a few minutes every day to just listen to them & give them your undivided attention. Even better, let them choose something special to do to take some time away from moving. This brings me to…
  • Have a “bucket list” of one thing each family member wants to do in your old town before you leave. This will help everyone feel valued (see above) & let all of you “say goodbye.” The Munchkin really wanted to go on the “mewwy-woun.” We’re also planning final visits to Magnolia & Shake Shack.
  • If you have time, throw a goodbye party with friends! Or let a friend throw one for you! That way everyone can say goodbye at once.
  • Speaking of friends, explain to your kids that they won’t get to see their friends all the time anymore. Let them know it’s okay to be sad & miss them, but encourage them by saying that they’ll be able to make new friends in your new town.
  • Explain the moving process to young kids: “A man will pack up your toys & clothes & put them in a big truck (bonus points for showing them the truck if they love trucks) & drive it to our new house! We’re going to drive separately in the car, & our things will meet us there!” {We just had a Family Home Evening about moving, where we talked about Nephi’s family in the Book of Mormon & how they moved to a new place too, & they packed up all of their things as well (see 1 Nephi 18:5-6). After we explained the process, we did the activity below.}
  • Parents magazine just had an article about helping kids adjust to moving, & one thing I thought was a great idea was to let your child decorate her own “treasure box” with stickers to put her favorite things inside. Then take it with you in the car so she isn’t separated from it. Here’s The Munchkin’s treasure box; the first thing she did was put in the 3-inch plastic Woody & Jessie dolls that go with her everywhere lately.
  • MAKE SURE THE LOVEY DOESN’T GET PACKED. IT GOES IN THE CAR. THE END.
  • Lastly, take a minute to say goodbye to your old house. (This was another Parents idea.) During your last meal there, likely on paper plates in your empty house, let each family member say his or her favorite memory of living there. Get your kids excited about making new memories!

Any other tips for moving with kids?

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How to make a licensed character party look homemade.

Have you ever noticed that the parties featured on all those professional party planner blogs all have generic themes, like bubbles, cars, or even just colors? But your kids aren’t going to request a “pink damask” party theme; they’re going to request Hello Kitty, Superman, Elmo, or, say, Mickey. So how can you give them what they want while still adding a personal, homemade touch like the professionals do? Do it yourself!

The Munchkin and SIX — yes, six — of her playgroup friends all have birthdays within a few weeks, if you can believe it. So the moms all got together & decided that, rather than spend the whole month of June going to each other’s birthday parties, why not do a joint party? We just had to figure out the one thing all seven could agree on: “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”!

I quickly volunteered to be in charge of the decorations, & I did everything with a personal, homemade touch with just over $30! You can too!

Here’s what I used:

  • a few feet of grosgrain ribbon (you can see it in the banner in the photo above)
  • 3 sheets of posterboard (34 cents each at Target)
  • 3 rolls of streamers: red, yellow, Caribbean blue
  • 3 cheap vinyl tablecloths in the same colors
  • The Munchkin’s coloring books
  • a few minutes at Kinko’s
  • The Munchkin’s crayons
  • my friend’s Cricut & her Mickey cartridge
  • free Disney fonts I downloaded from online

That’s it!

I started by going to my friend Maile’s house, where she very graciously helped me cut out dozens of Mickey shapes. That shape is forever seared in my brain. It reminded me of when we learned about children’s book author Bill Peet, who got his start as an inbetweener in Disney’s animation department, but quit when he had a nervous breakdown while animating a Donald Duck cartoon & ran out of the building screaming, “No more ducks! No more ducks!” As I was gluing (& gluing. & gluing.) I thought several times, “No more Mickeys! No more Mickeys!”

But seeing it all put together was totally worth it. The Mickeys ended up all over the place, like on these treat bags. It was a great way to reinforce the theme in a less cartoony way. (I attached a Sharpie on a ribbon to the sign to let the parents write their kids’ names on their bags.)

I used more Mickeys & some brightly-colored cardstock I already had to make placecards for the dessert table. Please forgive the really horrible rubbing out of names… I haven’t spent the $24.95 for the good version of Picnik to do name-blurring the right way. But under the horribleness is each name in free Mickey font. The other 6 kids got Wal-Mart cakes in the Disney character of his or her choice, but we’re cake snobs in this house, & besides, I’d been envisioning this Toodles cake for months. So that’s what The Munchkin got. I’ll post the tutorial Friday!

The signs were photocopies I enlarged from The Munchkin’s coloring books at Kinko’s (for a whole $2.06 total) & glued onto pieces of posterboard. Then My Husband The Artiste & I spent an evening coloring them in while watching Newsies. (Could our family get any more Disney? Maybe I should look into sponsorship or something for all this product placement…) Here are some of them; the “Birthday Clubhouse” logo was designed by the aunt of one of the birthday boys, who’s a professional photographer & graphic designer. She used it for the awesome invitation she made, which I for some reason can’t edit my ghetto way & still save. I’ll try to get it from her so you can see all its awesomeness.

We put each of the characters on a pillar of the Clubhouse, which was the gazebo outside our apartment complex. Perfect, right?

Even more perfect was the fact that Mickey Park was right next door! The kids entertained themselves by playing on the adjacent playground, drawing with sidewalk chalk like Daisy, & fishing for more treats for their treat bags with a “handy fishing rod” my friend Wendy made from a paint stirrer, some yarn, & 2 felt hands glued on either side of a clothespin. Total cost: $2.

Finally, here’s the food table. We had two kinds of chips & homemade salsa from my friend Halley (one was a fruit salsa I am definitely making & hopefully posting in the near future), Mickey-shaped cheese (find them at Wal-Mart) & crackers, chocolate covered raisins, Swedish fish (I mean, “Gooey Fish”), fresh fruit, & Hot Diggity Dogs (find them at Costco).

I made the banner & table tents from more of that scrapbook paper & free Mickey font.

So there you have it! All you need is some paper, coloring books, & creativity, & you can have a beautiful birthday party & a very happy birthday Munchkin…

…or seven!

Don’t forget to come back Friday to see the Toodles Cake tutorial! Here’s a sneak peek:

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