Wednesday, May 30, 2012

She's a berry bitty girl with berry big possibilities...

...and fruit filled fun is the secret to her recipe.
She may be small, no task it to tall.
She'll be your best friend just give her a call!

Sophia woke up Monday morning, immediately ran into our bedroom and announced, "I'm going to be three today!"

The anticipation of her Strawberry Shortcake themed birthday party had reached an all time high. She's been talking about her birthday and her party for the last two weeks to anybody and everybody. I have been busy planning this party for months, spending many days pinning ideas and writing down thoughts and plans in my party book. I wanted to be sure her birthday was berry sweet! And it was.


I started with her invitations which I made back in March or April. Fred thinks I am crazy for having started so early, but it really paid off in the end. I used the colors red, pink and green throughout everything.

The night before, I put up all the banners and party decorations so when Sophie came down she would be surprised. She loved it! Running from room to room, pointing at the banner and saying, "It's beautiful!" Showing us the tablecloth and yelling, "Look, Strawberry Shortcake! I love it!"
The fabric for the banners I bought at Hancock Fabrics. I measured a template for the pennants at 5.5.x7.5 inches, folded the fabric in half wrong side up and traced the template. I then pinned the lace in place for the border and stitched them together with a simple straight stitch on my sewing machine. When I ran out of the lace I had a minor panic moment until I realized that I had a lace pattern border punch. So for the second pennant banner I punched white card stock with the lace border, pinned it in place and sewed it all together. After it was all done, I kinda liked the one with the card stock better. The scallop banner is made of 5.5 inch circles. I cut the circles and folded them in half, ironing them to stay folded and stitched them around the edges. I then finished each banner off by stitching ribbon to the top for hanging. Each scallop banner has 6 scallops and each pennant banner has 8 pennants.

The birthday banner I made using two shades of pink card stock and rounding the corners of the inner color. Then I used my big flower punch on red paper and put black polkadot sticker letters on white circles. I finished it off by sewing a red ribbon to the top.
We blew up all the balloons the night before and strung them using a technique I saw on Pinterest. I threaded a needle with balloon ribbon and then threaded each balloon onto the ribbon using the tongue part of the balloon (the loose part you tie the balloon closed with). This made it way easier to spread out the balloons to fit the space. We put 10 balloons on each string and hung them up around our screened in deck the mooring of the party. Though we were unsure if we would even use the space as the temperature was set to hit 92 degrees. We figured we'd play it by ear as they day progressed.

The favor baskets were one of my favorite things with this party. I found woven baskets, similar to the berry baskets you see at farmers markets, at the dollar store. I filled each basket with items representing each character from the show. I ended up not including the newest member, Cherry Jam, as the baskets were already overstuffed. No one was the wiser. Before placing in each item, I filled the bottom of the baskets with paper grass filling I bought from the dollar store. (The filled favor baskets are pictured in the collage above, with other decorations).
1. For Raspberry Torte, who runs the Fresh Fashions Boutique, the boys got sunglasses and I made paper flower hair clips for the girls. I used this tutorial for the hair clips and then hot glued them to hair clips I bought at Walmart. 2. For Plum Pudding, who teaches at the Sweet Beats Dance Studio, I couldn't think of anything dance related for both boys and girls. So, I went with a set of crayons and coloring page of Plum dancing. 3. For Lemon Meringue, who runs Lemon Salon, the boys got berry scented body wash in various boy themes and the girls got mini bottles of nail polish in various colors. 4. For Orange Blossom, who runs Orange Mart, I gave each child a mini strawberry grow plant to start their own garden.

Each item I got for $1 or less so even though it looks like a lot, the overall cost was minimal. I then created little tags for each item with a picture of their associated character.
For Blueberry Muffin, who runs Blueberry Books, I thought it appropriate to make bookmarks for each child. The quote is actually one of my favorites from Dr. Seuss' I Can Read With My Eyes Shut book. I think I got the most praise for this item.

They were pretty easy to make. I started by creating a canvas in photoshop that was 2x6 and proceeded to put my design together. I flattened the image and put two of them onto a 4x6 blank canvas. I then had them printed out at Costco in lustre finish. Now I had two bookmarks per 4x6. I just cut each one out and rounded the corners with my Crop-a-Dile corner chomped to give them a finished look. It was super cheap too. Costco has a 4x6 for .13, which made each bookmark only like .06 cents and some change.
Lastly, for Strawberry Shortcake, who runs the Berry Bitty Cafe, I gave each child a smoothie recipe they could make with their parents at home. I downloaded this free image from, then found a simple smoothie recipe and wrote it out on the card using photoshop. To finish it off I signed it from Strawberry. She is always whipping up one of her fruitastic smoothies in the show. I placed it onto a 5x7 canvas, which was bigger than the image but that is OK, and printed them at Costco. A 5x7 is only .39 cents, so again cheap. I then trimmed off the excess from the edges.

I finished the baskets by making Thank You tags. They read, Thank You for coming you made my birthday berry sweet. I punched each one out with my 2 inch circle punch and glued to a punched 3 inch flower before gluing them to popsicle sticks and sticking them in each basket. Mason especially loved seeing the baskets come together. My overall cost per favor basket was only around $4.50.

For the drinks, I kept it simple. Pink lemonade and Raspberry Beer Cocktail. I also bought cases of mini water bottles from Costco (thinking the smaller bottles were better for little hands to hold) and created labels to wrap around them. The funny thing was that I miscalculated how many were in a case. I only planned on labeling 35 of them but instead my husband peeled off 70 of the labels, which he insisted I make 70 labels because he went through all that hard work. We now have an over abundance of Strawberry Shortcake water bottles in our pantry. LOL. They came out really cute so I don't mind.
I planned a simple buffet and thought it best to set it up on our dinning room table instead of squeezing it all on our small kitchen island like we usually do. This turned out to be an excellent idea. I labeled all the food with chalkboard garden steaks I bought in the dollar bin at Target. They worked perfect. I just placed them in extra plastic cups filled with fish rocks.
We had a turkey ring sandwich, chicken salad wreath, mini pizzas and mini cocktail franks for the main food. The fruit salsa with cinnamon chips was a hit and really tasty. I would totally make this again. And the Strawberry Shortcake Kabobs came out nicely. My only regret was that we ended up not having enough food. Those who should up last got the slim pickings. I felt horrible and now know that I should have bought some bread rolls from Great Harvest and set out the extra turkey meat and cheese to make sandwiches. Usually we have too much food so I kept it simple and easy, but somehow didn't calculate good enough. Oh well. You live and learn.
Instead of a cake, I made red velvet cupcakes and frosted them with the new Duncan Hines frosting creations, Strawberry Shortcake flavor. One again I miscalculated. I'm not sure what happened this year, but as those of you who really know me, math is not my best subject. Luckily, I think ahead and we had an extra box of cake mix and some cream cheese frosting in the pantry. I didn't let it bother me that the cupcakes were different frosting colors. They would still be tasty. To top the cupcakes I made flags, using Photoshop, with each Strawberry Shortcake character on the front and Happy Birthday Sophia on the back. It was the kids job to put the flags in the cupcakes and they did a great job. For the cream cheese frosting ones, we sprinkled each one with sugar crystals in pink, green, orange and blue. It all turned out awesome in the end. However, I was kind of upset that people staring eating the cupcakes before we even sang happy birthday to Sophie, but took a deep breath and moved on.

I had planned so many activities for the kids. We had a horse shoe toss, a "Going Fishing" game (with our inflatable pool, butterfly nets and some animal water bombs), a lemon roll, and bean bag toss for outside. But with the weather being so hot, we cancelled those activities. Inside, I had planned our usual indoor activites with Pin the strawberry on the vine and Pinata. But, the best activity I had planned for the kids were the Strawberry houses.
The day before, we put together these little cuties. What started out as a craft for me and kids, turned into Fred, Nana, and I putting all 16 houses together while the kids played with their toys. We used graham crackers and a royal icing recipe I got from Wilton. I had never made royal icing before (we always buy the pre-made gingerbread house kits), so I was surprised with how sticky and thick the icing was. It worked great though and our houses came out better than I expected. We glued each house to a paper plate, so that the candy would fall onto the plate and we could label them with each child's name.
We had them decorate their houses out on the deck. We placed Skittles, marshmallows, mini gummy bears, and Smarties in upside down origami fortune tellers and put the icing in bowls with plastic knifes. We placed these around the table and had the parents help the kids icing the roofs. This was the best idea I have ever had. The kids had such a blast and the houses came out wonderful! Well those who didn't just eat the candy.
The birthday girl busily, and creatively, decorating her house.

And, the end results.
This is Mason's house,

and this one is Sophie's.

They did such an awesome job. Everyone did. I loved seeing all the creations and just how much candy could be crammed onto the space that was provided. Such creative kids we all have.

Later we sung happy birthday to her, and I grabbed the first candles I could reach out of the cabinet. Not realizing they were the trick candles from Mason's party, they didn't go over well with the birthday girl. She was terrified of the fire and Fred had to work hard to blow out the candles before the paper tag caught on fire. Oops! At least the adults got a good chuckle out of it.
Enjoying her cupcake.

Next, we had the Pinata. We always make sure to successfully sugar up the kids before sending them home with their parents. :-)

We didn't end up getting to the Pin the Strawberry on the Vine game, but whatever. The most important thing was that the kids had a blast and Sophie loved her party. She loved everything about it.
At the end of the party I made sure to grab a photo of me and the birthday girl. She insisted on wearing her Strawberry Shortcake Halloween costume and even managed to keep all parts of it on for the majority of the party. I attempted to dress like plum pudding, wearing a blue and purple dress.
Even made myself some ponytail holders to help people know who I was suppose to be.

I was so happy that pretty much everyone showed up even though her birthday fell on a holiday this year. I wish I had been able to spend more time talking with each and every guest. I don't think I sat down at all, or stood still for any considerable amount of time. I barely had a chance to eat my lunch. But, it wasn't about me. It was about my little girl. My little girl. That is so odd to say. I can't believe my baby is 3 years old! Heading off to Preschool in the fall. She has really grown up so much. Just like Strawberry Shortcake, Sophia, you truly are a berry bitty girl with berry BIG possibilities.
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bloom 2012

Every year, Winchester holds their Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. There are parades, games, carnival rides, a circus, entertainment and loads of other exciting activities for kids and adults alike. This year was the 85th anniversary of the festival. You see my family (on my Mom's side) has lived in the Shenandoah Valley for many, many years. As a child, we would go to the Apple Blossom Festival every year. What I remember most about the festival is being the unofficial judges for the Grand Feature Parade.
I'm about 3 or 4 years old in this picture. It really takes me back. I remember I didn't like the drums in the marching bands because they were too loud. How ironic I find that now. Seeing as I spent 8 years performing in my high school and college marching band. It's been 15 years since my last visit to the festival. A long time, I know. But, as you grow older, time gets away from you and other things take on a greater importance. Yet, as May grew near, talk about the festival would always start. Since Mason turned 2 years old, my mom and I have been talking about going back to the festival, but never made it. Now that both the kids are old enough to enjoy it, we stopped the talking.

This Friday, after school, my Mom and I took the kids to the Fireman's Parade. Fred stayed home to enjoy a much needed guys night out. The day was met with much anticipation. Not only was this the kids first time to Apple Blossom, it was also their first time watching a parade. I had no idea how they would react. Would they think it was too loud? Would they be so bored they'd want to leave early? I've said it a million times, and it's true each and every time, my kids never cease to amaze me.

After securing seats along Washington St., we made our way to Old Town Midway. We checked out the games and concessions before grabbing some hotdogs and heading backing to our seats to eat. No festival would be complete without vendors selling toys along the route and Grandma being Grandma, bought the kids each a toy. Sophie immediately picked a purple monkey. We named him Boots since he looks like that monkey from Dora. Mason took a little longer, but decided upon a blue Ninja sword. We ran into my sister and two nieces, who joined us for the first part of the parade till my Aunt and Uncle showed up. First to pass were the motorcycles and antique fire trucks.
Mason spent the entire parade with his camera in front of his face,
taking picture
after picture
after picture. (This is James Woods High School, alma mater to four generations).
Mason was mostly into the cars, and when his camera battery died (poor planning on my part) he made note to tell me which cars I needed to take pictures of.
While Mason was busy being photographer, Sophia was fascinated with the Princesses.
She would yell, "Hi Princess!"
and wave,
and stare in awe,
and wave again. I swear her arm was going to fall off from all the waving and clapping at each and every princess that drove by. And there were a lot of princesses.
While Daddy was watching the Avengers movie on his guys night, we saw them too.
and McGruff the Crime Dog,
even the Chik-fil-A cows were there.
This is America's 9/11 Foundation carrying the National 9/11 flag. We almost missed them. Sophie had to go potty. Of course I had planned for this, not knowing where the bathrooms would be and if we'd be able to make it on time. Luckily we knew someone who had an office near by that let us use the restroom and I was so impressed when we arrived and Sophia's underwear was dry. She had held it in. Super proud mom moment right there.

Later, as one of the fire trucks drove by, one of the fireman started handing out fire hats to all the kids.

Of course little miss friendly walked over to the girl sitting next to us and said hello. I swear this girl will walk up and strike a conversation with just about anyone. Especially, if it's a girl (or boy) close to her age.

I kept waiting for one of them to tell me they were done and it was time to head home. Quite possibly it was the bags of cotton candy they devoured that kept their energy up or maybe just all the excitement of the day. Either way, I had totally lost track of time when Mason finally decided he had enough. Once we had gathered up all our stuff and headed back to the midway for one more gift (a necklace for Sophie and a lightsaber type sword for Mason) we realized we had stayed the whole parade. Just as we reached the street where the parade began, the last firetrucks were passing and blaring their horns as loud as I have ever heard. All us adults were plugging our ears, while the kids endured the deafening beeps and roars with total fascination.

I still can't believe they lasted hours sitting in chairs and waving at firetruck, after firetruck that drove by. It was practically dark by the time we reached our car and headed for home. Once again, both Mason and Sophie showed how mature and well behaved they can be. After the horrendous wait for lunch in Harpers Ferry, and now this long parade, I am convinced that my Aunt and Uncle think my kids are the model of perfect Angels who never utter a word in complaint, and do not posses a whiny bone in their body. Ha ha, do my kids have them fooled. But, in all honesty, I am truly proud of my kids in these moments. Ones where surely any adult would be tired, frustrated, annoyed, and antsy, causing even the most patient to lose their cool. These kids, seem to endure. Which is why I know we will continue to take them to places and events such as this.
(1. Enjoying the cotton candy. 2. Watching. 3. Local heros. 4. Being a Jedi Knight.)

So looking forward to next year.
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