Birdie Birthday Party

I've decided the earliest age to throw a big birthday party is three. Up until now, birthdays were fun, but they were not something my daughter anticipated, got excited about, or really understood in the moment. This year that all changed. I talked it up a lot this year to help her prepare. (Talking my daughter through future events really helps prepare her to get the most out of a situation. I'm not sure if this is universal with children her age or if it's just because she's so shy, but she always does better when she knows what to expect.)

For the past few months, we have been watching the birds through a big picture window by our dining room table. I started to explain what a birdhouse and birdbath were, and she told me she wanted them. I told her she could ask for them for her birthday, so every time someone asked what she wanted for her birthday, she said, "I want a birdhouse and a bath for the birdies." This made picking a party theme easy (and a present theme, for that matter).

My newest addiction is Pinterest. It's THE answer to the question, "What do I do with my old magazines if I don't want to throw them out?" Don't read magazines anymore. Find everything online and save your favorite stuff on Pinterest. You can organize your boards by themes and pin your favorite pictures/inspirations together. Each picture will link back to its original source, so if there's a recipe, DIY project, or more details that you're looking for, all you have to do is click on that picture. Never again do I need a magazine or a notebook.

I. LOVE. It.

And I love snooping through other people's boards to get new ideas. So, I started a party board (this link will only work if you have a Pinterest account. If you want to start one, message me, and I'll send you an invite), and I pinned all my favorite decoration and favor ideas there. I didn't use everything, and I've added a lot of other random party stuff since, but I'm really excited about the results.

The party was a smashing success, and my daughter even thanked me for it afterward. Sigh. Perfect. Enjoy!
Activity: Paint-Your-Own Birdhouses. I found these cheapest at Hobby Lobby with either a coupon or when the unfinished wood was 40 percent off.

This was my favorite area. The bunting is a handmade gift from a dear friend. We have used it over and over again in our home. The DIY egg-carton flowers tutorial is here.

Scattered throughout the trees were these hanging lanterns. The tutorial is here.

My amazing dad, Eric The Balloonman, is a handy resource for birthday parties! These balloon columns were all him. They really made everything look magical. Thanks, Dad!

Cupcakes courtesy of Sam's Club. I can't recommend them enough. Beautiful. Delicious. Cheap. I'm gushing. Seriously.

Let the party begin! Birdhouse painting was a huge success, but I made the mistake of not checking to make sure all paint was washable. Good thing most of the invitees were boys who could take off their shirts ;-)

My hottie hubby (no pun intended) slaved over the grill most of the party. It was in the mid-to-upper nineties for the party, which made the grill the least likely place to want to spend your time. He's my hero. He didn't complain once.

If you want people to attend/stay at your party, my personal belief is you must feed them. And feed them we did!

There was no shortage of help unwrapping presents. Smile.

A few of my favorite shots of the birthday girl.

And one of my favorite shots from the entire party--the aftermath. Party = complete success.

All photos courtesy of my talented mama, Judy. Thanks, Mom!


Baby Food Part 4 . . . and some news!

I'm back! Sorry for the delay between posts. I have some very exciting news, which semi-justifies my delay--we're selling our house! My hubby and I know it's the right time, so we've been working faithfully to de-clutter and spruce up our home. I always vowed I wouldn't save updates to do on my house until I get ready to sell--why not update while I'm living there and enjoy some of the fruit of my labors, right? Well, that has panned out to making the transition to sell a fairly straightforward process. If my hubby weren't working over sixty hours a week, we could've been ready to go in a matter of a couple of weeks, but with a hubby who's not home much (and when he is, he's justifiably exhausted), two little ones under my constant care, and a semi-normal existence, it's been a challenge to get anything, no matter how small, done in a reasonable amount of time.
photo courtesy of kevindooley

Of course, this naturally begs the question, where are you moving to? The answer is simply, I don't know. We're looking for some change--either closer to everything we love in the city, or possibly land on the outskirts. With as little free time as we have, we've decided to take things ONE STEP AT A TIME. First step, prep the house to sell. Second step, find a realtor and put the house on the market. Finally, start doing some research about where we want to live.

Okay, I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, here are some more baby food suggestions and hints I've picked up in the midst of transitioning my baby from nursing to solids.

1. Taste the food you're giving your child. If you don't like it, don't give it to him/her. This is especially true with jarred baby food. Thankfully there's a great new alternative that we've been taking full advantage of--baby food in a squeeze pouch. It's re-sealable so you can use the leftovers later. There's no spoon needed--just squeeze the food into your baby's mouth. And when he/she gets older, he/she can feed himself/herself. My baby's a little over nine months, and she's already got the pouches mastered on her own.

You've got to do some shopping to get the good prices. Our favorite brand right now is Happy Tot because it's organic, tastes really good, and the packaging is BPA free. (Although the new studies on how people are able to so quickly making plastic products BPA free is a bit disturbing. For more information, read this.) We can find Happy Tot in some of our Targets, but not all of them. And it's way cheaper than Plum Organics. Happy Tot also went on sale at Babies R Us recently, so that's a good place to watch. But, the best prices are on Amazon--sign up to be an Amazon Mom, and then use the "Subscribe and Save" option instead of checking out through your cart--there are also occasional discount codes available too).

2. It's easy to feed your baby sweet fruits and sweet orange veggies, but give green a try! Spinach has been really easy for me to incorporate. I can blend raw baby spinach in fruit smoothies, and none of my family--even the big kids (hubby included) are any wiser. I can rub baby spinach with sea salt, drizzle with olive oil, and chop with some kalamata olives, and my nine-month old will eat it without hesitation. As I've mentioned before, I try to incorporate raw foods into my baby's diet as much as possible, and I've found that blending pears and spinach, or apples and spinach is really easy, really healthy, and my baby loves it!

Oh, and I use my Magic Bullet to make all my baby food--it really is magical. Another tip, if it's not blending right away and you need to add some liquid, use coconut water. It has so many more nutrients and good stuff in it than just plain tap water. My firstborn used to drink bottles of coconut water with her meals. She loved it. My second born isn't as excited, but she doesn't mind it blended in her food.

3. As I mentioned before, I'm following Gabriel Cousens's guide to raw baby food. To give you an idea of how we started things, I've give you a really abbreviated list of foods we used. To get the whole list, you'll have to buy the book.

At six months we used a lot of bananas, coconut water, mangos, pears, cucumbers (peeled & blended) and avocados.
LOTS of avocados!

At eight months we added some almonds (soaked and blended with fruit they make DELICIOUS porridges), grapes, olives, and more. Nine months is when we added more greens--kale, spinach, and more. And like I said, you really just need to buy the book to get the full lists and the delicious recipes. Seriously, I eat any leftovers of the recipes I make from this book. They are so yummy!

4. We talked about the dirty dozen before. I want to give you one more tip about using produce that will really set you up for success--and it will help you actually use all of the produce you buy. I think I heard this first on the Rachel Ray show. Wash/soak your produce as soon as you get home and unload the groceries. My routine is to unload groceries. As I'm unloading, I stack all the produce that needs to be soaked by the sink. Once my counters are clear again, I fill my sinks with an apple cider vinegar/purified water mix, and I throw everything in the sinks and let them soak for 30-60 minutes. Bam! It's all washed, so I don't cringe when pulling it out and grumbling as I wash it while rushing to make a meal. Bam! It's ready to eat, so I can just pop it in my mouth when I need a snack.
This is a pretty average supply of produce for one week (about two sinks' full).

What are your baby food tips? I'd love to hear what you've used, what you've found effective, and what you'd recommend to others just starting.

**Coming soon--pictures and details about my daughter's three-year birdie birthday party!