Lewis’ Disney Cars 3rd birthday party!

I was determined not to take an entire 365 days to get my sh*t together and post about Lewis’ 3rd birthday party this time around.  I mean, I get that life got in the way last year, but his 2nd birthday post was *so* entirely lost in the recesses of my blog drafts that I utterly forgot ALL about it.

This was Lewis’ first birthday party at home, and, considering his parties are something of legend from our last two years in Houston, and our apartment here isn’t big enough to swing a cat in, that I was going to book a community centre hall, here in Larne.

Since we’ve barely been around much since we bought the apartment, I had no idea where to go.  I put a call out on a local mums page and got the recommendation of The Cliff, 60 quid, two hours, hall rental and a bouncy castle – sorted! I opted to add an extra hour (30 before, 30 after) for set up and tear down, cause I knew the 30 minutes that came with the package (I was right).

The theme was Cars, when I picked it, we were going for a planes, trains and automobiles theme, so Disney cars wasn’t the specific choice at the time, but Lewis became quickly OBSESSED with Disney Cars (especially the tractor scene) and the decision was an easy one.  The colours were red and yellow, and daddy ensured there was as much Mater presence as we could cram in to the party.

We have a much smaller circle here in the UK than we did in Houston, so the number of kids was less, the number of adults were less, but the amount of food and effort put in to the party was probably more – I can’t help myself! LOL!

And those that came along? Seem to have had a blast, and went home happy, full and most of the kids were well tired out from all the running around.

The Cake and Cupcakes

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat.  I didn’t want a cake – no one really eats it, it’s always way too big for the amount of people you have, regular sized cupcakes wind up half eaten or in the bin, so I wanted mini cupcakes.  I have a cupcake lady here in NI and I opted to get three flavours, twenty cupcakes per flavour. Chocolate with chocolate buttercream, vanilla cupcake with lemon curd middle and lemon buttercream, vanilla cupcake with raspberry filling and a coconut vanilla buttercream – with edible, themed toppers.  Delish.  Sixty mini cupcakes.  A bite, maybe two, limited waste and everyone goes home happy.

This was fine until Col insisted we needed a cake.  We were going to go for a simple, buttercream covered cake and being quoted fifty pounds for a cake that I *could* have made, but was just a little too lazy to make, I opted for a Blaze cake from Asda for a tenner – it’s another current favourite of the birthday boys and it’s close enough to a car to pass in an automobile birthday party.

The decorations

Being a community centre, the room is ginormous, so there was no way I was going to be able to decorate the entire thing.  I didn’t have a rail to act as my back drop for the yellow curtains that I picked up in Target on clearance before we left the states.  So we got a similar plastic back-drop/poster decoration as we had last year for his Thomas party.

The table cloths were a mix of party colours and, a late addition, checkered flag table cloths, as we had more tables than we did tablecloths.  Col grabbed a helium tank and inflated a couple of helium balloons that he tied around the room.  We picked up some checkered flags that were thrown in some Disney Cars cups as last second centre-pieces and I bought some little rubber wheels from Amazon on a whim, to stack and scatter around the food and dessert tables – turns out, these were quite a hit and became toys for the kids to play with during the party.

We had a Cars Happy Birthday banner for out the front door of the community centre – there’s no sign on The Cliff, to say ‘hey you’re at the right place’, so it was just a wee marker to let people know they weren’t lost.

We also had a food labelling kit (most of which wasn’t used), but we had little food flags, straw flags and stickers for things like the jar of salsa and dips.

The Food and Drink

Not-Las made cupcakes and store-bought cake aside, the dessert table comprised of two flavours of oreo truffles (mint dipped in milk chocolate, and strawberry dipped in white chocolate), as well as banoffee balls.  I threw together some of Godmother Sheri’s date crumbles so a little bit of her would be at his birthday party too.

I had various crisps, and sweets from the sweetie aisle in Tesco (seriously though? Who doesn’t love giant strawberries, strawberry laces and sweetie teeth?!)

Going on parties from Houston, where parents are increasingly health conscious, I had fruit and veggie trays with multiple dips, caprese skewers and sandwiches.  Bringing up the unhealthy (and hot food) side of the table I had buffalo chicken dip, cocktail sausages and cocktail sausages.

Drinks wise, kids had ‘Thank you for coming to my party’, personalised Lewis labels, adults had soda/pop/fizzy juice – I was supposed to pick up water, but with the crazy of the morning it evaded my memory.

Party Bags

This years party bags, were my best to date! I got some Paw Patrol fabric totes on valentines clearance for 39c a piece, I had Disney Car’s plastic cups from Walmart (99c), Disney Cars bubbles with a puzzle on top, Disney Car’s self inking stamp, a Disney Cars jigsaw puzzle, a Disney Cars play pack and a Matchbox car for each party bag.

Edible treats consisted of Paw Patrol edible gumies, Halloween haribo (I got on clearance at Tesco, wotsits, raisins, a Paw Patrol chocolate lollipop, mini Cadbury fingers and a little pouch of buttons.

Clothing

Aunty Magz was on the ball this year with ordering a themed t-shirt, daddy forgot to order one for his second birthday, but his 1st and 3rd birthday parties involved a shirt,with the theme, his age and his name – I LOVED this years Cars shirt.  A LOT!

As for me? I did a little ‘unicorn hunting’ within the realms of Lularoe and came up with these car leggings (couldn’t get a pair for Lewis to match!) and I was comfy and theme-fitting for the day!

Finishing touches.

When I was growing up, my parents always went all-out on our birthday parties.  Whatever they could afford, but always a little ‘more’ than our friends.  All my friends wanted invited to my parties.  Birthdays were always very important in our home.  The day you were born? It’s a pretty freakin’ huge deal.

I’ve always been the same when it comes to Lewis’ birthday parties.  He was so very wanted, and he is loved more than I knew was possible, and I believe in celebrating his little life to the max on his birthday, as I’d like to think that for the rest of the year (aside from when he’s in Grannies house), he’s not too spoiled at all.

So, with that in mind, in an addition to the bouncy castle, on a whim I priced a face painter – I’d seen their information advertised in the community centre only three days pre-party, when I went to extend our reservation.  I emailed them, fully expecting them to be booked up.  When they replied and said that they were not only available for the party, but they were only 45 quid for the hour, for around a dozen kids, probably some stray big-kids who’d want their faces done too, for face painting, glitter tattoos and balloon animals, I jumped on it.  I wanted this party to be a little special for the kids, but also? Things like a bouncy castle and face painting in Houston would have cost exponentially more than that, so it was an easy sell.

Not only was she prompt in arriving and setting up, but she was detailed in her face painting, and good.  The boys stuck to getting all Spidermen, the girls went butterflies and a princess – it was a great level of skill, not just stars and flowers and I’d highly recommend them to anyone in the mid-East Antrim area for their parties (info@carnivalpromotions.co.uk).

Lastly, but, most importantly, I asked my cousin Paula to come along to take some snaps on the day at the party.  I’d had my friend Sandra take pics of his first party, we didn’t have a photographer at the party last year and I missed it.  So I asked her to make the trek up from Newry and join us with her camera – I am so very glad I did.  We got some updated family pictures, some great snaps of my party planning wizardry for the blog and she captured some lovely pictures of my friends, their kids and just ‘in the moment’ memories that I’ll cherish forever.

Choo Choo! Lewis is two!

It’s been almost a year since I started this blog post.  You know how I know that it’s been almost a year? Because Lewis’ THIRD birthday has been and gone, so i’m clearly just a little behind.

Let’s do a quick recap…For his first birthday party, we settled on planes as the theme (blog post can be found here), I had originally wanted to keep the ‘train’ theme for when he was a little older and more involved with trains, so he could enjoy it a little more.  But I couldn’t help myself. I’d settled on the theme for his second birthday a before he began his obsession with trains, thankfully though, his obsession was in full force by the time his party came around.

There are worse things my son could be obsessed with these days, I hear Caillou and Peppa Pig are absolute head wreckers (I wouldn’t know, they’re banned under my roof! LOL!) Curious George bugs the hell out of my friends and I don’t think I could face a Dora the Explorer obsession for that matter either.

In spite of the fact that Lewis is currently, whole heartedly obsessed with Paw Patrol, I had already decided that his third birthday party theme would be cars (following the Planes, Trains and Automobiles path), and had already set wheels in motion for the theme before the obsession with the heavily gender-biased dog show came along.

Anyways, back to his second birthday, originally, we were going with a generic train theme, not specifically Thomas.  However, it wasn’t long before our little toddler was Thomas on the brain, so it became a non-starter, a Thomas party it would be.  The colour theme was red, green and blue – after James, Percy and Thomas.  If you search for Thomas and friends party on Pinterest, there’s an abundance of ideas and suggestions, to fit every budget and creative flare.  Everything from train cookies, to ride along hay-bale trains for the yard (which I momentarily considered before I decided that it was, perhaps, a little OTT).

I skipped out on the invitations for his second party, with my best friends wedding only two weeks before, life was a little crazy and so I opted for a Facebook event invitation (a trend I opted to do again this year) and didn’t bother with a photo-booth either (I know, right? What kind of pinterest party mother AM I?)

Essentially, this party was as minimal effort, maximum effect, as I could physically manage.

Party Bags

 

I LOVE party bags, they’re one of my favourite things to put together for a party.  I decided that last year, the party favours would be two-fold, upon arrival to the party, children were directed to the ‘Uniform Pick-up’ station, where they donned a hat, bandanna and picked up their train whistles.

As they left, they picked up one of these goody bags, the bags themselves I got a couple years ago in a closing down Birthday’s on a random trip to Scotland – figuring that I’d use them some day, whether for a grown-up ‘little boy’ obsessed with trains, or a son.  I paid pittance for them (like 15p a pack) and they fit right in.

Inside these goodie bags, kids found a train lollipop, star shaped bubbles, a Thomas and friends Mini ($1 each in Walmart, $1.50 in Target), a pack of Thomas stickers (Amazon) and a Thomas and friends stamp – I was pretty happy with this little goody bag.

Decor

Decorations for this party were pretty simple, the internet is coming down down with Thomas decorations.  I opted for this Thomas the tank ‘Scene setter’, which came in five pieces, two went on the front door, one went above the favour table and the two biggest pieces went behind the drinks station and served as a ‘faux wall’ between the party room and the dining room.

I picked up a pack of these Thomas table centerpiece decorations and confetti, a railroad track table runner, last year’s three-piece little blue suitcases were, this year, joined by a red set for holding favours and table decoration.  I opted for healthier snacks this year, and decided to have some popcorn, coincidentally I stumbled upon this cute popcorn stand, which was both practical and added to the table decoration.  The food was also served in foil containers that I’d glued oreos to, to give the impression of a train car – and that, was pretty much that.

The Cake

The ‘Cake’, was something i’d seen on Pinterest.  It was a ‘2’ made out of cupcakes, topped with kitkats, feigning railway track for his little Thomas minis to sit on as decoration.  It was a simple, yet effective ‘cake’, I ordered the cupcakes from a local bakery, and Lewis had any number of mini trains around to go on the ‘track’.

Food and Drink

Having made ombre rice krispies treats for my BFF’s wedding a couple weeks prior, I figured it would be fun to make them again for the party, dipped pretzels became our ‘log car’, poorly homemade train shaped sugar cookies, popcorn and various fruits, macaroons and oreo truffles made up the sweet table.

On the savoury side we had squares of cheese (dairy cars), chips and dip (grain cars), veggies and dip (produce cars), mini quiches, mini sausage rolls, min vol au vents, and train shaped sandwiches with various fillings.

The drinks table had mini waters, capri suns, orange juice and lemonade, with 99c Thomas cups from Walmart that the kids got to take home at the end of the party too.

This was Lewis’ last birthday party for a while in his hometown of Sugar Land, Texas, and it was quite a fun, at-home party.  Lewis’ toys were all on-hand for the kids to play with, so as far as party activities were concerned? I didn’t really need to do anything.  The kids busied themselves just fine, and when they weren’t playing with the toys, they were filling their faces with a mix of healthy and unhealthy treats, while the mama’s all had a chinwag and a bun!

A Funky little Monkey.

img_8496I wrote this post last week – just haven’t had a moment to scratch, to finish it up and edit it.  Needless to say, this will be the first, of what I’m sure is many blog posts about being a mum here in Northern Ireland, facilities available for kids and other such things.

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As I look out over this magnificent vista… wait.  Wrong show.

img_8467As I sit here, on this hard plastic throne and listen to the screams of a hugely disgruntled child as his grandmother attempts to drag him from whatever life changing toy he was playing with, as I watch the two poles of ‘human experience’ unfold before my eyes and am impatiently wait for my chicken goujon lunch to appear, I thought, perhaps, that it was high time I wrote my first ‘mumsy’ post from sunny Costa del Larne.

For the record, by ‘human experience’, I mean both the best and the worst.

I’ve just witnessed an older girl, completely unprovoked, grab an older boy by his head and smash his head into the floor of the play area, while he was howling in pain, I, simultaneously, watched a little girl – who had previously been doing some epically good round kicks on those punch bag looking things – take my sons hands over top of an obstacle he was trying to scale, and attempt to help (gently) pull him across.

img_8483While it didn’t work, and I sat for a good eight or nine more minutes, patiently watching him try to figure out how to get his little self, up and over this foam blockade (you can just about make out his wee head over top of the blue foam thing in the picture), he figured it out himself and I gave him a quick thumbs up, before heading over to thank the mother of the little girl, for not raising a face-smashing little wench, but a caring and helpful little girl, a stranger to my son, who tried to help him when she saw him struggling.  I imagined her heart leapt when she saw someone coming over asking if that little girl was her little girl, but instead I got a ‘yeah, she told me’ and a ‘what the hell are you doing over here talking to me, lady’, kinda look.  Screw you.  Ugh.

img_8479While living in the US, we had a few indoor play areas that we loved, nine bucks (ish), unlimited play time, typically an in house café – with varying successes in food provided – and a very happy, exhausted and sweaty toddler at the end of it all.

Coming back to Northern Ireland, I quickly became aware that we weren’t in Texas any more Toto.  The going rate for indoor play here, is around five pounds, which, in ‘real money’ is about $8 before the pound tanked.  Sounds on par, right? Well.  When that $8 only covers 90 minutes, you see, friends, we have a problem.

The problem here is, friends, that I have a boisterous and energetic little boy.  I have a little boy, who could easily burn through three hours in an indoor play area, doing the same thing over and over, and over again, to his little hearts content.  Who would cry, and scream, and protest were I to try and remove him from his fortress of fun.

And then I read about Funky Monkey’s membership.

  • $12 per month (that’s pounds, but I’m on an American computer and can’t figure out where in the name of all things, the GBP sign is).
  • UNLIMITED entry to the center, 7 days a week.
  • UNLIMITED access to activity programmes
  • 10% off birthday parties
  • 10% off at their café

img_8476Not only that? But you can use this membership in ANY of their locations around the north, there’s one in Larne, Newtonabbey, Banbridge, Dondonald…I’m not sure where else.  All I know is that the ‘city pass’ as I’d call it in a Houston context, means that I can use any of their branches under my monthly membership.

Sunday, we took Lewis to the one in Dundonald.  We had Halloween activities planned, but the weather didn’t comply, so we opted to cross the car park from the place we had breakfast and throw him in to Funky Monkey’s for a while.

img_8500I’ve been sick since Sunday, til yesterday (Thursday) and today, we’re back, here at the one in Larne, where we have already made friends with one of the girls who work here, Megan – which, brings up another point, the staff in Funtastics were verging on being rude, even, not just standoffish.  I’ve not found the funky monkey’s crew to be like that at all.  They’re friendly, kind and helpful.

So, my advice to the mums of Northern Ireland? Grab a membership to Funky Monkeys – it’s worth it.  You cover your monthly membership, with less than one trip to indoor play a week.  And, if you happen to see your local blogger sitting trying to wrestle her hot chocolate out of the hands of her toddler? Come say hi.

img_8502But for now? I’m going to enjoy the dregs of this mug, that he graciously left me until it’s time to convince this child that a quick trip to Asda is more fun than those swinging punch bags – when all this Krav mama *really* wants to do, is go throw some combos! 😉

Lewis’ ‘Time Flies’ first birthday airplane party.

The theme for this blog post, guys and gals, is ‘OTT’.  No, no really.

11010629_10155279509765411_8605921233011560039_nBut he’s super cute – and I just couldn’t help myself!

It’s no secret that I’m a Pinterest party person. I love event planning, hosting parties and crafting up a storm to make for an amazing party. Having helped my BFF out for the last five years on my nieces birthday parties, I felt confident that I could take doing one for Lewis by myself.

With the help of our photographer, we narrowed down a theme (I’ll probably use the runner up for next year!)  Airplanes.  She mentioned that she had happened upon a cute plane prop and could totally make an amazing set around that theme.  So we ran with it.

Invitations

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I had bought him a cute flight jacket at a local Just Between Friends consignment sale, wayyyyyy before he was born (Col thought it was cute) and after having gone to the Galveston Flight Museum (and Amazon), I grabbed some patches and send the whole thing down to my trusty seamstress, who turned out a FAB jacket for our lil guy.

His first birthday photo shoot was one of my faves, he was a lot more mobile than before, he was curious and yet hesitant to pick things up, so gave us unsure little looks, to make sure he could pick up the planes and letters around.

I ordered them (and the thank-you cards) from Tiny Prints (photo above was the one I used!), I had a coupon for a huge discount, but needed urgent shipping cause I stupidly left it too late.  Tip: schedule your pictures early, and order your invitations early.  BE EARLY! LOL!

Party bags

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I went with brown paper bag ‘suitcases’, in keeping with the travelling/flying theme.  I got the bags and brown card for accents in Michaels.  The vintage travel stickers, and the thank-you tags came from Amazon, and the pilots wings I got from eBay.

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Inside each bag, kids got a little aviator duck, a ‘grab bag’ from Target (either a Planes one, or a Minions one), mini bubbles, Disney Planes/Cars tummies, a foam glider, half a sheet of stickers (I couldn’t get a sheet each, Target was cleared!!) and some white chocolate covered pretzels.

Photo booth

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I’ve wanted one of these for ages, and this OTT first birthday party, was the perfect excuse 😉 I decided to go with a fabric back drop.  I ordered a photographers stand from EBay for $30, it came in a little fold away bag for easy storage, it’s easy to step up and take down (if I can do it anyone can) and it worked out being cheaper, or at least as cheap as making a plastic pipe one from piping from Lowe’s or Home Depot.

For the back ground itself, I wanted a sky-theme, I had grand plans of making a cardboard plane for Lewis and his friends to sit on, in front of it, so I bought two yards of four different colors of fabric, which Col and I tore into 2″ strips one night while watching NCIS.  The clouds are made from $1 clearance tulle Pompoms from Michaels and fish wire/clear thread.

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My props, aside from Lewis’ flight jacket, and a pilot hat from Amazon, were hand-held wooden props that I got from Michaels and painted one evening (glasses, mustaches, crowns, top hats) that were all $1-$1.50 each, but are so versatile that I can use them every year, regardless of the theme of the party!

I ran out of time (and thought I’d have more hands to help) so I ordered an inflatable red airplane from Amazon.

Décor

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Using my ‘old faithful’ cricut, I cut two different banners – out of regular, 12×12 card stock from Michaels.  In their ‘discount bins’, I got some matching twine and in their scrapbooking aisles, I picked up some coordinating clothes pegs, to make my lovely ‘Time Flies’ banner.  The intention was to have a plane pulling the banner, but it just didn’t get done.

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The other, was a Happy Birthday Lewis banner – pretty simple, but cute!

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I picked up 48 WWII foam gliders on Amazon for $8, I didn’t realize there was 48 when I bought them, but, after putting one in each party bag, I didn’t want to waste the leftovers, so decided to do a hall of gliders – stringing them up onto fish wire was pretty bad, considering the string is INVISIBLE, but I think the hall looked cute.

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Even now, weeks later, Lewis LOVES our hall of gliders.  Every morning we go downstairs and from the very top step, you’ll hear him exclaim ‘wow!’ They amaze him!

Cake

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I considered having a cake made by a local bakery, but, in a moment of stupidity, decided to do it myself.  I usually HATE boxed cakes, but, I haven’t find a white/vanilla cake recipe that I love better than the box (I will NEVER buy a chocolate box mix, for example) – if you have one, please feel free to share!

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I went with a five layer orange ombre cake, covered in a light ‘sky’ blue butter cream, buttercream clouds and topped with a Sesame street cake topper (from Amazon).  It was pretty tasty – if I do say so myself, but, unfortunately, most of our guests were seemingly health conscious, and I was left with well over half of the cake! (This totally wouldn’t have happened in my home country!!)

Food and drinks

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The ‘in-flight service’ savoury menu, was pretty simple.  I went with two crock pots of ‘mains’, I had BBQ pulled chicken in one, and meatballs and smokies in a BBQ-tomato sauce in the other.  I had burger buns, with cheese, onions and lettuce on the side.

The sides were a veggie plate, crisps from home, chips and salsa and caprese bites (mozzarella cheese, basil leaves and cherry tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar – I should have made more of those, they went very well!).

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I even put together some cutlery/silverware packets, with Lewis Air labels that my BFF designed for me.

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IMG_4749The ‘in-flight beverage’ drinks table,  had some orange punch (Hawaiian punch and sprite zero), Koolaid drinks and small bottles of water (with personalized labels).

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Our dessert table, was fun! I had my sister pick up a bunch of kiddies sweets from home, my best friend baked some Airplane cookies, I dipped some Oreos and made propellers from M&M’s and Jelly Beans and had some jars of color coordinated M&M’s and Jelly beans.

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I’m very proud of this party, not least of all cause I did it myself, but also cause it came together very well.  I’ve already given thought to his next birthday party theme, and will be keeping my eye out for ‘stuff’ to stock pile for it! 😉

What was the theme for your little one’s first birthday party?

I woke up one morning, and my baby was suddenly a toddler!

Well, it happened.  I turned 30.

Whilst I was momentarily afraid to face the big 3.0, I quickly realized that I’m more terrified of Lewis turning one, than I am of me turning thirty.

I think it helps that I’m the younger one in our marriage, Col hits all the landmarks before I do.  That helps.

But, upon closer inspection, and reflection, I quickly saw, that actually, I’ve achieved a lot by the time I hit 30.  So, really, it ain’t all that bad.

Right??

Let’s recap: I graduated college (huge personal achievement), I met Col, moved to Houston, volunteered (for four and a half years so far), helping other expats here, got married, travelled to some amazing, bucket-list kinda places, and after a three year battle with infertility, we had Lewis.

It ain’t too shabby.
And, after reflecting a little on the last year, I’m slowly coming to realize that Lewis turning a year old, isn’t all that bad.  We tried for three years to conceive. I wanted him so very badly, and I spent my whole pregnancy afraid to go to the bathroom, in case disaster struck.
I wanted him so very badly.
When he was born, I bawled.  I couldn’t believe that he was ours and that we could really take him home.  I cried at the smallest thing.  He opened his eyes, I cried, he yawned, I cried, he grabbed Col’s finger and I cried.
He is simply amazing.
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I’ve definitely changed.  This year has changed me.
Motherhood is a juxtaposition.  Fo’ sho’!
I’m more relaxed (baby led weaning and mess), yet more highly strung (danger and injury to my precious cargo) than before.
I’m more calm (trying not to over react to every little bump or fever), yet more emotive (I seriously cry at everything!) than before.
I’m more patient (teaching him things), yet more impatient than before (saying no two hundred times to the same thing).
And I’ve learned.  A lot.
Let’s start with the boobs, if you’d told me, this time last year, that I’d have made it a full year Breastfeeding, I’d have laughed in your face.
FACT.
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This little “leech” stuck to my boob 24-7.  I’d finish one agonizing feed and it would be only a matter of minutes til the next one started (feed every three hours my ass!) The screaming agony of his latch (that no one could fix), that resulted in me crying at every feed for months on end, the bleary eyed night feeds, the leaking, the boob pads, the lansinoh, the panic attacks and stressing when he needed fed and we were out in public, the time spent in the car when I didn’t feel confident nursing in public, the double shirts (pull one up, pull one down), the teething, the fish hooking, the nose poking, the pumping, the pump and dumping (I had an MRI with contrast, and surgery with narcotics and couldn’t feed Lewis for two x twenty four hour periods) and feeling like Daisy the dairy cow.
Its all behind me, and I’m almost mournful that our journey is nearing its conclusion (he’s down to morning and night feeds and is self-weaning).  Almost.  It’ll be nice to have my boobs back to myself, for sure.  But, more so, the sheer pride of getting him to this milestone, when so much didn’t work right from the get-go, I’m thrilled.
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I can’t begin to tell you how your perspective changes when you have a child.  You watch something on TV and you cry. Nay, sob. Because it tugs at heart strings that you never knew existed.  Your whole being becomes about protecting and raising this beautiful slobbery, stinky butted kid, who just has to look at you and your insides turn to goo.
You perceive a whole new level of security and risk.  You’re like a member of the secret service, everywhere you go, checking, double checking and triple checking. Everything. Twice.
You become a multi-tasking genius.  No, really.  You’re keeping the kid on the changing table, who has suddenly morphed into Usain Bolt, while dealing with poop, potential projectile and spontaneous pee, hands that are fascinated with boy parts, changing and dressing him? It should be a bloody Olympic sport.  Fact.  And don’t get me started on people telling you to practice dressing a teddy bear!!
My advice? Practice dressing a 200lb Labrador, while he’s chasing a squirrel down a motorway.  That’ll learn ya!
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And the poop? THE POOP! It’s only poop! It’s only puke (he had reflux so bad that he had to sleep in a swing for six months)! It’s only squished up, two day old Mac and cheese in your hair.  Today, for example, Lewis had a blow out.  They are infrequent, but we needed to change his clothes and in the clean-up process, he kicked out his leg and got poop all over his foot, ankle, calf, knee and thigh, he stuck his hand in it and then grabbed my, already poop-tainted arm. It’s only poop.  Just keep telling yourself that.  It’s only poop!!!!!!!!!!
Showering is a novelty, going to the loo (especially solo) is a novelty and hobbies are a novelty.
But holy shit I’ve never known a love like it.  The love I have in my heart cannot be contained.
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This child can make me cry, just by looking at me.
He’s smart, he’s funny and he’s a sponge.  Watching the cogs turn in his head fascinates me.  When he figures something out, he’ll check to see whether we are watching, and if we aren’t, he’ll do it again.  One night he had started using his walker by himself, the walker was out of reach and dada hadn’t seen his new monkey truck yet, so he started walking around the living room pushing along the basket of laundry.  He’s currently using his daddy’s table as a walker, after having used the nappy bin.  Resourceful kid.
He’s inquisitive, likes exploring and figuring stuff out.  He likes testing boundaries to see just how much mama means the ‘no’ she’s just said three times.  His favorite toys are the unsuspecting ones, a spoon on the tiles, an empty egg carton or one of his plastic plates to bang against the bin.  We should have just returned all these toys people got him and bought eggs.
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He is FULL of love and he’s such a happy kid, he gives smiles generously, he gives kisses unprompted, he waves at, and makes friends with strangers, he loves his daddy (who can’t leave the room without a scream-fest when daddy gets home from work), he claps his hands when I sing, he loves to dance, and he’s just cut his sixth tooth.
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Being a parent has being the biggest blessing I could ever have hoped for, and it is multiplied exponentially, by the fact that we got blessed with such a shamazing little boy! <3
Happy birthday little one, I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for our little family <3
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Birthday party: Time for tea!

The long awaited ‘party of 2013’, is now, long, long, long, behind us, it’s probably about time that I tell y’all about it for posterity sake, right? I’ve been told that my tea party was my second best party of all time (a close second to the 80’s themed party I threw for Col’s birthday last year) and I have to admit, I LOVED every minute of this tea party.

557996_10152542186995411_494618689_nThe preparation and pre-amble to this party was pretty labour intensive – as I was starting from scratch, I had none of the props related to tea parties at all.  But, it was a fun and educating party.

The theme was a traditional tea party, with a modern day ‘twist’.  I’d planned a mostly traditional menu (yet with a few American dishes on there, like PB&J sandwiches) and I had the most wonderful brainwave to delegate the food requests among my friends – well, it was my birthday after all! Everyone bringing something, took the severe burden of feeding 30-40 people all by myself and meant that my house stayed relatively clean ahead of the party.

The dress code started simple, everyone had to wear a hat or a fascinator.  But as time passed and we got closer to the party, people kept asking me what they should wear and once I established that I was wearing my party dress, it became a ‘posh affair’!

The Irish Contingent, Joanne, Eileen, Alison and I

The Irish Contingent, Joanne, Eileen, Alison and I

Decor and props were simple, when it comes to a tea party, it’s all about the simple elegance of the equipment. Goodwill became my new home, I checked three different local Goodwills, every week, for months.  I bought a couple sheets that I used as table clothes (for between $2-$4 each), one, which I cut into about 40 different pieces and stitched (yes! ME!! Sewing!) in to napkins and a final one I hung as a backdrop, or, ‘photobooth’, as is the common terminology these days.

Sheri, her daughter Laura and I

Sheri, her daughter Laura and I

As you can see, Nanees loves me dearly!

As you can see, Nanees loves me dearly!

Tea often comes in some very beautiful kinds of tins, I found a few on clearance in Target for a few bucks a piece and my friend Theresa brought me back a tin from her last trip to Canada.

I bought my flavoured teabags from Amazon, they were inexpensive and I’d tried them before, so I new they tasted good.

Teapots can be beautiful things, and, going in to this party, I had only one teapot to my name.  By the end, I had five.  One I got in Hobby Lobby at 80% off $39.99, the second I got in Home Goods for about $6, Ross for $4, Goodwill for $2.  Milk jugs, glass carafes and sugar crocks were a buck or two a piece in Goodwills around Houston.

I picked up a couple of parasols from Ebay, some lace gloves, two or three adult hats and a couple of hats for the littler people in our midst and made a ‘Tea Wreath’ out of cardboard, scrap-booking paper, clothes pegs, hot glue and a plastic tea-party-style hat that I found in Goodwill.

420337_10152541975620411_273707926_nIt was the tea sets that proved the most challenging, and oftentimes expensive.  In order to get the teacups and saucers, I had to buy the whole dinner service, which meant I had a plethora of serving plates, but way more than I needed, or wanted.  I just wanted the stupid cups and saucers!! But I eventually got the number I wanted, OK, the patterns weren’t quite as gawdy or old fashioned as I was aiming for, but all the same, it was what I needed!

11075_10152541975800411_1078600108_nFirst course:

  • Salad (Nanees)
  • Quiche (Corinne)
  • ‘Fruit’ salad aka pink fluff (Shelly)
  • Pasta Salad (Cindy)
  • Irish wheaten bread (Alison Moran)
  • Cous cous salad (Las)

Scones:

  • Gingerbread scones (Las)

Tea Sandwiches:

  • Spinach and Parmesan mini muffins (Las)
  • Chicken salad (Lindsay)
  • Peanut butter (Salma)
  • Jam (Salma)
  • Cheese and tomato (Jo)
  • Chicken, apple, brie, fig preserve (Las)

Tea Desserts:

581199_10152542184170411_714486104_n

  • Caramel squares (Las)
  • Lemon and poppy seed muffins/cupcakes (Corinne)
  • Lemon curd tartlets (Las)
  • Jam tartlets (Las)
  • Date crumbles (Sheri)
  • Banana bread (Nicole)
  • Meringues (Annette)
  • Victoria sponge cake (Magz)
  • Fruit w/ chocolate fondue (Donna)

Drinks

  • Orange Juice (Eileen)
  • Cranberry juice (Adrienne)

Teas

  • Earl Gray
  • Cranberry tea
  • Pomegranate Pizzaz
  • Mint Medley
  • I Love Lemon
  • Cozy Chamomile
  • Orange & Spice
  • Sweet Dreams
Shelley and I

My girl shelley and I

What a MONSTER birthday party!

Every time I travel to Iowa to help out with Averie’s birthday parties, I ask Amber to start a party planning business with me.  We make awesomeness happen in these parties and it’s such a fun thing to do!

With Averie’s parties, the research and planning levels are taken off the table for me to a large extent.  Amber does most of the foundation work, I turn up and help with the crafting and implementation.  This was one of my favourite parties!

Before:

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After:

943124_10152848262330411_455115296_nLet me break it down for you:

Centerpieces

Plastic tubs (monstered up with eyeballs), party coloured popcorn (all 4 colours) and monster horn cookies (made by Aaron and decorated by Amber and I), you can also see here Amber’s crazy cool monster party hats!

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Lunch

Monster spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread and a salad.

10138_10152848266215411_1282771344_n931427_10152848264130411_296869920_nIn a home-made serving dish that Amber painted at the pottery shop

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Drinks station

Fruit punch, water (with personalised water bottle labels!) and party colour cups.

580158_10152848264185411_280041964_nDessert table

934787_10152848263320411_2115744785_nTwo monster cakes, with eyeball cake pops (both made by local lasses)

480207_10152848263980411_1950460115_nDipped oreos, pretzel sticks and a trix bars

960106_10152848264090411_215318082_nFruit monster

969331_10152848264450411_1625720221_nKids crafts stations

Bubbles, stickers and colour/scratch pads

179776_10152848262845411_270543754_nMake your own felt monsters.969724_10152848263970411_1165397661_nAren’t they cute little buggers?

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Nick and I making our monsters!383516_10152848270095411_643164589_nWhat a great party, filled with crazy colours and oodles of fun! Averie had a blast, got lots of gifts and there were plenty of leftovers for everyone to take home!

946817_10152836733175411_1491848336_nMe with the birthday girl! <3

For previous birthday parties, go here:

Averie’s ‘Rainbow’ 3rd birthday party (Amber’s blog)

Averie’s ‘Minnie Mouse’ 2nd Birthday party

Averie’s ‘Dotty’ 1st Birthday party (Amber’s blog)

Can’t wait to see what Amber’s got planned for next year!

Col’s not-a-party, celebration!

Happy birthday husband o’mine!

Most of you know by now, that my husband professes to be an ‘un-fun’ guy, he doesn’t like parties, he doesn’t like being the center of attention and he doesn’t like getting presents (well, he kind of does but only if no one is looking at him when he opens them!).

Today, is my husband’s thirty-fifth birthday, and, true to my yearly form, I do everything in my power to go against, every part of the paragraph above.  Last year? I threw him an 80’s fancy dress party, well – social gathering – I should say.

Jan 2012

Jan 2012

I got a snap with the birthday boy!

I got a snap with the birthday boy!

Quite a different ‘aura’ than his party last year, eh? (I also think my cheekbones are under a little less chub this year, but who’s counting 😉 LOL!)

This year, I threw him a ‘not-a-party’, it was probably the biggest crowd we’ve had in the house so far, and it was a definite mash-up of our two worlds, Schlumberger, and Choir.  Let me introduce some of the ‘characters’, many of whom you already know…

First to arrive, the Ribauls - as always!

First to arrive, the Ribauls – as always!

Andrea, the mighty man child, Jamal and Lindsay

Andrea, the mighty man child, Jamal and Lindsay

Sheri and Gunnar drove straight from NOLA to the not-a-party

Sheri and Gunnar drove straight from NOLA to the not-a-party

The Madden family

The Madden family

Eileen and Josh

Eileen and Josh

Sue and Jon

Sue and Jon

Lindsay, Maria Jose, Cindy B and Beverly

Lindsay, Maria Jose, Cindy B and Beverly

Since I’m having an uber fun birthday party myself this year, I decided not to ‘theme’ Col’s party too much, decorations were minimal, supplies came from the dollar store and aside from cleaning the house which took a while, (pretty much both levels of the house needed cleaning, cause we had Eve overnight and people were up and down the stairs to use the upper-loo) the party prep was minimal – and I’ll tell you, in one word why, delegation!

The mini-theme I went with, was ‘Col’s favourite food’, I divvied up suggestions to those who were coming who were keen to bring something along and I think we ended up with a very well ‘balanced’ table (and counter, and kitchen island) of food! I know, for sure, that we had PLENTY of food and plenty of leftovers too!

Food

BBQ chicken dip (Lindsay and Duane)
Lil Smokies w/meatballs in bbq sauce (Cindy and Tim)
Leek and bacon quiche (Corinne)
Fettucine alfredo w/meatballs (Beverly)
Mac and cheese (Sue and Jonathon)
Quinoa Salad (Maria Jose)

Two buckets of KFC chicken pieces (Ryan and Andrea)

Coronation chicken (Magz)
Sweet chili potatoes (Las)
Lasagne (Las)
Man candy (Las)
Sausage rolls (Las)
Chicken vol au vents (Las)

Foooooood!

Foooooood!

Desserts
Sticky toffee pudding (Las)

Eton mess (Emily)

Fruit Salad (Cindy B)

Chocolate peanut butter bars (Eileen)
Just for Col
Dill pickle crisps/potato chips (Sheri) – don’t ask, they were in NOLA for a trip and I asked them to pick some up for him!
Magz Eve and I - I LOVE this picture

Magz Eve and I – I LOVE this picture

Eve with one of her Godmothers and Godfathers

Eve with one of her Godmothers and Godfathers

Corinne and I

Corinne and I

I love this pic of Lindsay and I, but moreso, I love the chocolate martini!!

I love this pic of Lindsay and I, but moreso, I love the chocolate martini!!

We had a wonderful time at Col’s not-a-party, I laughed so hard that my ribs hurt, I sang so hard that my throat still hurts (two days later!) and I ate quite a lot of the ‘wrong’ but absolutely delicious kinds of food that I’m sure I’ll suffer on weigh in day!

One thing is for sure, if this does happen to be the last time we celebrate Col’s birthday in Houston for a few years (there’s a whisper that we may be uprooting this year), it was a great way to end our time here.

The choir folk sang all night!

The choir folk sang all night!

We have such wonderful friends here, so full of love, fun and always keen to sing a choon! I can’t express just how blessed we feel to be surrounded by such fantastic people.  It’s a real privilege to be able to call these people them ‘friends’ and to know that regardless of where we are in the world, we’ll always be tied together, by that little string of ‘crazy-whack-job’ that runs through all of us 😉

The Secret Seven

The not-so-secret Seven

The tale of two parties!

Today was a busy day for the McMasters, we were invited to the 1st birthday party of our friends little twins, which started at noon, and a few days ago, we got another invite for today, to go to our friend’s (and the President of the choir we sing in) birthday lunch.

Since we already had the twins party, we turned up for an hour, hung out with some of our musical friends and slipped out just as they were all sitting down for lunch – which was a shame, because I’ve heard RAVE reviews about the restaurant and have since discovered that it’s one of the top restaurants in Houston! It’s on my hit-list of places to go to very soon (possibly a birthday dinner?!)

It was nice to be able to chill out, outside (in December!!!) with our fellow musically minded peeps and enjoy the slightly clammy, warm breeze.

From here, we went – well, nowhere, our car didn’t start once we picked it up from the Valet.  GRRRRRR!

After a short time-out, she started and we were finally on our way to Katy for the twins birthday party.

The Cake!

Little Eve having a blast!

Emily and Cindy

The Maddens

Sheri and Gunnar

I forgot to get someone to take a picture of Col and I (darn!), but there was yummy food, a delicious cake and some of our closest friends in Houston all under one roof – what else could we have asked for?!

Ladybug party for little miss Eve!

Everyone knows I love a good party, and aside from occasionally, momentarily entertaining the thought of starting my own party planning business, when a friend mentions the word ‘party’, I’m all over it.  It’s bad, honestly, I mean, a friend told me last night that she was pregnant, and after my congratulatory squee, the first thing I said to her, was ‘I have dibs on your baby shower’ LOL!

The birthday gal!

So, when Magz informed me that the theme for my adorable little Goddaughter’s (yes, I may be biased but how can you argue with pictures like that?) birthday party was going to be ladybugs, I was on it in a heartbeat.  As always, I went straight to Pinterest and did some research and together, we threw a fan-dabi-dosy shindig that I simply MUST share!

The birthday girl, all kitted out!

Eve’s outfit was ADORABLE! We’ll start with her ladybug hair clip and her tutu, they were made by the lovely Lindsay over at Chicky Babe Creations and the T-shirt, was made by the newly discovered Polka Dot Pair (I found the shirt on Pinterest and Magz ordered it through her Facebook page).

Door-Wreath

My first attempt at making a wreath, it was pretty easy, relatively cheap (I used a 40% coupon at Hobby Lobby for the foam wreath, the tulle was on 40% off, the flowers came from the 99c store as part of a bunch and the bugs were pretty cheap in Michaels).

The decorations started outside

Favour table

Cookies for favours…

Favours came all the way from the fine state of Iowa, from my friend Amber the cookie lady (go here, for her blog on them).  They were DELICIOUS! And, as you can see, they were super cute!  As soon as she gets talked in to setting up a cookie-shop business, I’ll let y’all know!

Banners up the stairs

Magz had the genius idea of turning the rug into a huge lady bird!

Red and black cutlery in a bug pail with bug cups!

Banner for the fireplace and bug balloons!

Magz printed one photo from every month of Eve’s first year and ‘pegged’ them to a piece of ribbon and attached a bug (like those on my wreath) to each end.  It was amazing to see how much Eve has changed from month to month and from birth to 1 year old.

Cute bug-bites!

For food, Magz and Sam did a yummy bbq, but they had some snacks and sides that are worth noting.  Starting with the above ‘bug bites, Ritz crackers, cherry tomatoes, chives and a dip of your choice, creamy garlic, yoghurt and pesto, whatever flavours you’d like to add to the bites.  They are quick and easy to make and they definitely have a great ‘bug’ visual impact.

Bug apples!

Red apples, a few spots of peanut butter and raisins (or, my preference, chocolate chips), another quick, tasty and relatively healthy snack and very cute – yes, I know I’m saying that a lot!

No kids party is complete without jelly!

Chocolate ‘spots’ and a melted chocolate bug ‘head’ – easy and tasty!

Party table – before the bbq was ready!

Bug pretzels!

One of my favourite parts of the party planning, though they were time consuming and a pain in the butt to make.  Next time, I’d use black melts (if they exist) but otherwise they were a hit, even with the birthday girl!

Happy girl!

Cake!

The cake is a work of art! Though all of Miss Emily’s cakes are EPIC! For those of you who haven’t seen, check out her giraffe cake here, for Magz’s baby shower, and her elephant cake here, for Heather’s baby shower.  I keep trying to talk her in to opening a cake shop, but she won’t hear of it!

Little Eve was spoiled rotten, and once she’d opened her presents, she wanted to play with all of them, all of the time! It was very cute 🙂

Mummy giggling with the birthday girl

The Madden family!

Tugging on Uncle Col’s beard!

Mummy and Aunty Las with little Eve

It was a FAB party, we played pass the parcel, enjoyed great food, great company and little Eve was surrounded by love, cake and toys!

Getting kisses from Aunty Las and mummy