Friday, March 14, 2014

Time to Party!

Last week, our sweet little lady turned 2! Where has the time gone? She has been such a joy in our lives and has brought so much laughter into our home. To celebrate her special day, we decided to have a 'Natalie's Favorites' birthday party.

Wasn't this just yesterday?
A little background
So, last year for Natalie's first birthday, we hosted a cookies and milk themed party. Mom and I made 4 different cookies, 2 or 3 dozen of each. I bought glass jars to display all the cookies. Even little milk boxes in a vintage looking bucket of ice. We had banners and streamers and balloons! It was quite the production. At the end of it all, we sat back - exhausted. Even though we had a wonderful time, Natalie enjoyed all the attention, and our guests seemed to leave happy, we vowed that we wouldn't go over-the-top, until the birthday princess was big enough to really remember and appreciate it. 
Not to mention that we went way over budget!

And! since I'm pregnant with little number 2, I wanted/needed a stress-less, easy party! :D

Natalie's Favorites Party!
Natalie loves going to the park and sliding down the big slides. She loves bubbles, fruit snacks, chocolate, and stickers. She loves pink and, of course, bows. Most of all, she loves being with her little friends from our play group!

This made the party easy to plan and it all has come together beautifully - even the weather!

I budgeted $100 for this party.

The Place
I decided to have the party at our local, neighborhood park. I knew this was going to be a bit of a gamble with the weather in March being unpredictable. The forecast looks promising though and we had a back-up-I-really-really-hope-we-don't-have-to-use-this-plan which was to cram everyone into our house, that I haven't had time to thoroughly clean . . . Luckily, sunshine and warmer temperatures that are well above freezing are in our future. Yipee!!

Another positive to planning it at the park is that it is free

The Activities
To keep things simple, not to mention obvious, we're having the party at the playground. So, I didn't plan any games. Since the majority on the pint-sized guest list are 4 and under, I figured no one would mind not having a regimented get together. 

The Favors
This is what I have been real excited about. Since we're on a budget (and really, who isn't these days?), I was worried that all the cash we had allotted for the party and gifts would be spent on favors. That's when the true theme of the party came to life - Natalie's Favorites. I came up with a kid-friendly, parent-approved, and inexpensive goody bags that all came together for $1.74 - including packaging! I know, I know, how could this be?! Well, I will tell/show you!

I went to Family Dollar on a mission. My list was simple - stickers, bubbles, and mini chocolate bars. I couldn't find the stickers, but the bubbles and chocolate bars both came in 6 packs priced at $3.00 - not too shabby. Next, I went to Michael's (my home away from home). There, I bought green tulle ($2.99 for a 20 yard bolt) , pink paper bags ($2.99 for 12), and stickers (2 packages of 6 sheets priced at $1.99 each). I already had a Costco sized box of fruit snacks at home, so I didn't need to purchase those specifically for this occasion!

Each kiddo will take home a bottle of bubbles, a piece of Hershey's chocolate, a package of fruit snacks, and either Disney Princess or Angry Birds sticker sheet.

I folded over the top about 2 1/2", punch 2 holes about an inch apart, then looped and tied tulle in a pretty bow to secure it. 

and Ta da! The finished project.

The Totals:
Bags - $2.99 for 12, $0.25 each
Tulle - $2.99 for 60 feet, $0.04 per 12" piece
Fruit snacks - $9.60 for 80, $0.12 each
Bubbles, 6 pack for $3.00, $0.50 each
Stickers, 6 sheets per package at $1.99, $0.33 per sheet.
Chocolate, 6 pieces for $3.00, $0.50 each
Grand total = $1.74 per bag!

So for 12 treat bags to be enjoyed, it only cost $20.88! I'll take it!

I like to use tulle when wrapping gifts for a couple different reasons:
1) It travels well. If I stick something in the mail, I know that when it's received, the ribbon isn't crushed and looking like it just went through hades and back.
2) It's inexpensive! For 20 yards of the stuff, I can use 24" of it for roughly $0.10. 
3) It can be used again, which I just love. If I get a tulle bow on a gift, chances are I'll save it and use it again for something else!

I could go on and on about it, but I shall spare you. Bottom line - it looks nice and looks fancy.

The Cup Cakes
Cup cakes are the best, aren't they? And it doesn't hurt when a good friend of yours just so happens to be a freelance baker ( Loving these connections! With a friend gifting them to Natalie, I didn't have to worry about ordering or making them myself. Plus, her's are going to be so much cuter that I could ever, EVER hope to make them. Bake on, friend! Bake on!

Snacks, drinks, and what they go on
Simple is best, in my opinion. I don't like to provide food that I won't eat later. You know, just in case no one is hungry! Natalie and I made ham and turkey pinwheel sandwiches - well . . . she licked the spoon and I made the sandwiches. 
I picked up a big fruit bowl from Costco and plan on serving chips too. Done and done.

As for drinks, we decided to provide waters, a jug of sweet tea, and juice boxes (for the kiddos). I don't like to have soda in the house. I never drink it and my darling husband is trying to limit his intake. Natalie thinks that flavored sparkling water is soda, so I don't mind her drinking that! 

I have enough pink Solo cups left over from the birthday party last year to hold us over. In the $1 section at Target, I found pink and green plates, napkins, and even a plastic table cloth! Target really is heaven on Earth.

Fruit Bowl - $9.00
Pinwheel sandwiches - $9 to make
Chips - $3.49
Bottle Waters - $3.00 for 24
Juice boxes - $8.50 for 32
Cups - $0.00
Plates - $3.00
Napkins - $3.00
Table cloth - $1.00 

Total - 39.99

This means the GRAND TOTAL of our Natalie's Favorites Party is $60.87

The Birthday Bow
Of course, my little model is going to be sporting her Happy Birthday Bow. Check it out on Etsy!

The Birthday Girl
We're so proud of our little girl. I feel so incredibly blessed to be her momma and can't wait to see what life has in store for her. It's my prayer that she continue to be strong and brave, loving and willing to help others, and always remember where she came from.
I just wish she could stay little for just a bit longer. I guess I'll just have to get as many little hugs and kisses as I can!

stay tuned for pictures from the party!

Until next time!

PS - If you like, hop on over to Facebook and like my business page!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Making Plans

I'm not going to lie - I'm a busy person. I thrive on having something several things to do at any given time. Recently, a good friend of mine asked me, 'How do you do it? How do you stay so busy but always seem to have the time for it all?' My answer is simple. I make the time!

Through this blog, I hope to show busy parents like me, what's seems important, what's actually important, and how to balance everything while still making time for yourself. It just takes a one essential item!

A Planner 

This is my lifeline. I carry it with me practically all the time. You don't have to use a crazy expensive one. Just as long as it has plenty of room to write down reminders (birthdays, appointments, lunches with friends, etc.), plan out dinners,  and keep track of children and spouse schedules. I'm also a full time student, so I use it to keep track of assignments, exams, due dates, and most importantly, breaks! I also think it comes in handy if there is an address book attached to it. 

Out of all the planners I have purchased over the last 10 years of my life, my all time, hands down favorite on is the Mom Agenda ( Seriously, take it from me; this planner has it all! I'm able to take a look at my week, my daughter and my husband's schedules, plan dinners, and keep track of my school work all in one place. The weeks are from Monday to Sunday and there is a designated space for each child, dinners, and ample space for me! It also has this neat feature in the back called 'Mom Essentials' which is an address book and stores a whole bunch of other information (veterinarian contact info, insurance information, family information to include blood types or allergies, ICE info, and oh-so-much more!). They're always running specials, especially around the new year when it's time to renew and update! Not a mom? NEVER FEAR! MomAgenda also makes a MyAgenda; a version of the same planner without the child spaces. Seriously? What's not to love.

Okay, so now that y'all know my love affair with planners, I can move on!

Have you ever sat back after a super long, stressful day, and thought to yourself, I didn't get one dern thing done that I needed to. Here is your answer - plan it out! Once you get into the habit of writing every little thing down, you'll feel more in control of your day and will be more productive. I mean it!

Make the Time challenge of the week! 

Make it a point this Sunday and map out your week. I like to do it on the couch, next to my husband, while catching up on some shows. 

Plan the following:

Dinners - Never again will you find yourself at 5:00 in the evening with your hubby and kiddos begging you for the answer to 'What's for dinner??' I always feel like I've just been caught with my pants down. If I write it out and take a quick peek in the morning before running off to start my day, I can set out chicken to defrost, or better yet, make a note to stop by the store to pick up last minute ingredients! If your kids are anything like my little girl and dinner has to be ready at a certain time or else! this will make it so much easier. I also have found it easier to make the grocery list and stay within budget. Notice I said attempt. Good food aint cheap!

Kids' schedule - think there is a play date this week? Or perhaps a birthday party? What about a classroom holiday party and you, in a zealous and overconfident moment, volunteered to make 2 dozen cupcakes with sprinkles? Are you really going to leave it to your already cluttered and disorganized brain to remember everything? No more! Take note of when and where the play dates are. Mark down when the party is and the gift you're planning on buying (or better yet! already purchased), and what time the cupcakes need to arrive at school. Less stress and instant time with your kids. Maybe this will be the week that junior can frost the cupcakes. Ahh memories.

Husband's schedule - I know what you're thinking! If I'm keeping up with my life, our kids lives, the dogs life, the groceries, the drama with work, the gossip with friends, car maintenance, and the fact that our neighbor's goldfish died last week, why should I keep track of HIS schedule too?! Here is your answer, my dear: Because you can handle it! It has been through my own experience, not to mention to wisdom passed onto me by my mother and grandmothers before me, that women are designed to multitask. I'm not saying that you need to map out his day, like you may do for yourself. I'm just saying keep track of a doctors appointment that he's forgotten and had to reschedule two or three times. For all the military spouses out there, keep track of duty schedules or retirement ceremonies that he has to attend. That way when he looks at you on Wednesday night and says with fear in his eyes, 'I have a change of command tomorrow and I need to get my uniform ready!' You can say, 'I know, I had your uniform dry cleaned.' Then sit back and soak up the praise, ladies. Your earned it!

Upcoming Birthdays - I am super blessed to have 16, yes 16 nieces and nephews, 4 brothers, 5 sisters-in-law, both parents, in-laws, grandmothers, and 7 BFFs to keep up with. Yes, yes, I know that it isn't necessary to send a little something-something in the mail to each and every one of them but I like to! And no, I don't spend a million dollars. My personal budget for gifting outside of Christmas and special occasions (weddings and babies) for all the aforementioned people is only about $200. THAT subject is for a later post though. 
For the purposes of this post, just take a peek to see who's celebrating a birthday this week and if you've put something in the mail already! 

School or work stuff - For all you scholarly types out there, take notice to due dates of projects and assignments. When was that Stats exam again? When you can see it coming, you can better plan to study instead of lying aimlessly on the couch watching a marathon of Walking Dead (great show!) when you could have been studying for that test. No one likes a low grade on an exam when they had ample time to prepare, am I right?
Work stuff! Before I decided to go back to school, I was on active duty in the US Navy. I was very involved in my command with work and collateral duties. Being able to write them down and stay on top of them put me ahead and made me look good to my superiors. Plus, how professional would you look carrying around a stacked planner with pen in hand? Need I go on?

Since I'm about to open my own Etsy shop (stay tuned for the big announcement!), I also make sure to plan out what I'm going to put up for sale! Since we're in March and St. Patrick's Day is only a few weeks away, I need to make sure that I have plenty of materials to keep the crafting happening and ready to ship. 

And finally:
You - make sure to carve out some time for you! Have lunch with a friend. Get a pedicure. Go to Target by yourself. Get up extra early one morning to watch that Pioneer Woman episode you missed last night (Ree Drummond, you genius you!). Or just sit back and relax while drinking your piping hot coffee in bed and watching TODAY. Ah serenity. It's times like this in a busy woman's life that brings her back down to earth and reminds her to take a moment and slow down. You can't be super woman, wife, and mom without a little break to be just you.

Well! There you have it. Get a planner and take over the world! Not really the whole world, but at least you can take over your little piece of it. 

'Till next time!