Nothing beats autumn in New York, but I've decided Texas is pretty nice, too. We've made it a tradition to go to the Texas State Fair (next weekend) and the Dallas Arboretum (this weekend) every October since we have lived here. The arboretum is really great all year, but I especially enjoy the pumpkin and gourd displays going on right now. I love the patterns that are created by the pumpkins as they line up to make the little houses. And I Iove the way the gourds fit together like puzzle pieces on the wall. The colors are so inspiring! It's a perfect October family outing. Now I'm looking forward to eating some fried butter and fried Frito pie next weekend...
Over the weekend, with my husband's photo-hanging expertise, I added another row of photos to our dining room wall. Keeping all the frames the same is perfect for this grid-like approach.
The latest round of photos were taken by my very talented photographer friend, Jennie Slade.
Jennie also took Amelia's 4-year old photo which we hung in the stairway next to Charlotte's 4-year-old photo. Jennie totally captured Amelia's personality and the entire photo shoot was a breeze (45 minutes from start to finish!). I love having a chronology of my girls at this age, just before they start looking older. Jennie will be taking Bea's photo in 2 more years to add to our growing collection!
Last Halloween, I threw a party for approximately 15 of Charlotte and Amelia's friends, ages 4-7. I sent out invitations the beginning of October and then the planning began!
When the guest arrived, they were greeted by this sign and headed to the backyard for some fun. I set up 3 different food craft "stations" and the girls' rotated amongst them all. I was grateful for the help of a few of my friends who graciously offered to oversee the little guests at each station.
The first station was Popcorn Monster Hands. Very simple but very cute. All you need is plastic food service gloves, candy corn, air-popped popcorn and clear rubber bands. The candy corn "nails" fill each finger tip and the popcorn fills the "hand."
The next station was Pumpkin Cake Pops inspired by these. I made the cake balls a few days before and put them in the freezer. The only other ingredients needed are lollipop sticks, orange-colored, candy chocolate (melted), green M&M's for the pumpkin "stems" and miniature chocolate chips for the "eyes."
The finished "pumpkins" (keep in mind that 4-7 year olds made these all by themselves!).
The third station was Nutter Butter Ghosts. Again, so easy and perfect for little hands. All you need is Nutter Butter cookies, melted white chocolate and miniature chocolate chips.
These were the easiest craft of the three and quite delicious, if I do say so myself!
The guests sipped from miniature water bottles affixed with "Witch's Brew" labels. (For those of you averse to using water bottles, simply ignore this party step and move on to the next).
After everyone rotated through the food crafts, we took a break for some "scary" food...
"Mummy" pizzas made from half a bagel spread with pizza sauce, string cheese and olive slices for "eyes." I popped these under the broiler for a couple of minutes, just until the cheese was melted.
"Monster Toes" comprised of a Lil' Smoky hot dot, a strip of flour tortilla and a dollop of ketchup for the "nail." A bit macabre but the kids loved these!
"Apple Teeth" finished off the lunch menu. These were made by carefully cutting an apple into the perfect "mouth" shape, brushing with a bit of lemon juice to ward off browning, and then sticking in almond slice "teeth."
After lunch, we played a few games: "Pin-the-Nose-on-the-Pumpkin," doughnut eating on strings and "Who-Can-Guess-How-Many-Candies-Are-In-Each-Jar" (the winners took home each jar of candy).
While the games were being played, all the food crafts were packaged in orange Halloween pails which I found at Target. Preprinted name stickers made it easy to identify each guests' goodies.
Everyone went home with pails of treats and smiles on their faces!
For Bea's birthday, she received the cutest gift from my sister-in-law, Jillian: the book, Little Hoot, and a handmade polka-dotted owl apron. So clever and such a thoughtful gift!
Bea loves helping me make cookies in her very own "big girl" apron. I am amazed by Jillian's craftiness.
If you would like to order a similar apron for $25 + shipping, contact Jillian at email@example.com.
The day of the party, Bea knew it was all about her. She even stood still long enough for me to snap a few photos of her with her "2 years old" sign.
Of course no Blonde Designs party is complete without custom water bottle labels. Bea enjoyed helping me rip off the old labels and affix the new. We did this at least a week in advance as I like to spread the party preparations out so I don't get too stressed.
The party at the children's gym was a hit and there were plenty of balls to play with. Surprisingly, for a 2-year-old party, there were no meltdowns and all the kids seemed to have a grand time.
I decided to serve cupcakes due to the fast-paced party and ease with little fingers. I made my favorite yellow cake and topped it with cream cheese frosting. The "2"'s were printed on adhesive paper and sandwiched front and back between toothpicks.
For favors, everyone went home with a "ball" cookie frosted with royal icing and...
...a giant ball that I found here. A cute adhesive label was all that was needed to personalize the balls. As my daughter would say, "easy peasy lemon squeezy."
I can't believe that my baby just turned two. I feel like I just planned her 1st birthday! Where does the time go?
I went back-and-forth on party themes...horses or balls? Bea loves them both. Since we were having the party at a children's play gym, the ball theme won out and I designed the invitation accordingly, in shades of pool blue and orange. While I couldn't exactly control the color palette of the party venue, I could control that balls would be everywhere!
Tune in this week for the party details.
The night before school started, we had our annual back-to-school dinner. The girls look forward to it every year. They each sit at the head of the table and are queens for the evening. They don't have to set the table, clean off the table or any of their usual nightly chores. They can just sit and bask in their last moments of summer (oh the drama!!).
I like to think that the highlight of the evening is our engaging discussion of what the new school year will bring. However, when I'm being completely truthful, the highlight for my girls is probably their back-to-school surprises. Nothing fancy, just a little momento for each of them to use for the school year.
For Charlotte, I found the most darling bento box at this fantastic store in Laguna Beach. The design is fabulous and it is actually quite useful – sugar snap peas and a few dollops of hummus fit perfectly inside. For Amelia, I found a Batman water bottle. Not quite as chic as Charlotte's gift but Amelia was over the moon with her new water bottle.
I decorated the gifts with a version of the label above. If you click on the image, you can print out a whole sheet for yourself. I included blank ones that I thought would be cute to write notes on and slip in your child's lunch box.
Kristin and I are officially off summer vacation, our children are back in school and we are doing our best to catch up on work and get back in the swing of things. Thank you for your patience – we are grateful to be missed!
As a thank you, if you click on the image below, there are back-to-school signs for all your elementary-aged children. Kristin and I use these signs at the start of each school year. Looking back over the years, it's fun to see how much our children change from year to year.
Hope you enjoy and happy back-to-school!
I walked past a Bugles display at the grocery store this week and it reminded me of this cute back-to-school snack. I grabbed a bag of Bugles, some cheese sticks, and got a thick slice of ham at the deli counter. I practiced putting one together today – so easy! I hope it brings a smile to my sweet 1st grader's face when she sees it in her lunch box next week.
The tip of the Bugle is a raisin, secured with a toothpick.