Thursday, November 8, 2012

Graham's Solar System 5th Birthday

So Graham turned five! I know every parent experiences this (some experience it every year), but HOW IS HE FIVE?  I need to bind his feet and stop this "growing" business right away.

We celebrated with a party themed around one of his current obsessions: the solar system. He is very nitpicky OCD particular about whatever he's into, and he wanted me to know that he was not interested in aliens or rockets, just the solar system. Okay then.

We had the party at 2:00, so we kept the food to snacks (and cake and ice cream, of course!). We rented a bouncy house, which, while pricey, was FANTASTIC: it gave the kids something to do the whole time, it wore them out, and someone set it up before the party and took it away afterward (um, after I took my own turn bouncing up and down in there. So fun!).

The combination of bright afternoon sun and shiny black fabric and paper made this too difficult for a non-photographer like me to photograph properly, but you get the idea. 

My mom made this beautiful cake to Graham's specifications. I found the little star candles at Deals, a dollar store.

It was surprisingly difficult to find a moon bounce that was space-related. I must have looked at 100 different options, from a dozen different local companies. They all seemed to have Shrek or Cars 2 or princesses or something on them. I did end up finding one with rockets (I know! No rockets! But rockets made more sense than a Kung Fu Panda 2 bounce house, okay?) from Jump Jump Bounce in Murfreesboro. They were great, and I highly recommend them. (Also, we ended up getting to have the bouncy for six hours, so I got to invite a couple friends over for post-party beers and bouncing. Just a suggestion.)

I don't think I got a great picture, but I made signs that said "Astronaut Training" and put them on either side of the entrance to the bounce house.

We wanted to have a couple other activities besides the bounce house, in case it got too crowded in there.

Some hula hoops, an overturned table, and a fitness ball = ring (around Saturn) toss.

I dragged a lot of Graham's space crap collectibles out to use for decorations (use what you have! Always!), and I thought I'd hang these from the swingset and let kids shoot at them/launch rockets at them/whathaveyou, but of course this just ended up in the kids' shooting each other with the cheapie ping pong ball guns I provided. Well, at least they did until the guns all stopped working--one plus of buying dollar store party favors. 

This was baby Dean's first exposure to toy guns, and boy did he love them. Mother of the year, right here. Stay tuned for his violence-themed second birthday party next spring!

I made a little "Astronaut Portrait ID Station" photo booth from foamcore and Graham's own vinyl decals, and the only place I could find to hang it was on the little back "clubhouse" portion of Graham's swingset, which faced right into the blinding afternoon sun. Sorry, kiddos! Squint at me and say cheese!

For favors, I gave each kid a bag of treats with space-related names: Starburst, Milk Ways, and mini Moon Pies! I named it, lazily, Space Junk. Yes, my theme disease led me to make a dumb joke about space pollution. But it is junk! And from space!

The biggest hit by far, though, was the bounce house. Seriously. I want to rent one for my own birthday. 

Happy birthday to my big kindergartener! You are my favorite five-year-old in the world. 
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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Martha's Marble Mar-shelves

Things are crawling along with the last 15% of our upstairs addition! Seth and I have been living up there all summer--we just climb a set of temporary stairs to get there. Every couple of weeks I will wring my hands and whine and flail about, and Seth will nod with a wholly unconvincing "concerned" look on his face, not listening, thinking he is placating me, and then we just decide to watch Burn Notice on Netflix (I am accepting TV show suggestions. Please note: I am woefully deficient in much of pop culture. There are huge gaps in my TV repertoire, mostly because of these selfish children. Gah, so needy).

Such is life with jobs, two wily little boys, and an ever-shrinking amount of free time.

We may not be able to cut and install stairs while chasing a toddler around the house, but we can install some shelves while he takes a nap, dagnabbit.

I spotted the idea to use marble threshold pieces as bathroom shelves in  Martha Stewart Living years ago and was instantly enamored. When I joined Pinterest, I sought out a picture of this feature so I could "pin" it and remind myself to do it someday.


I apologize for the teensy picture, but notice the shelves. They are simple pieces of marble threshold, mounted to the wall with shelving brackets. Y'all know I went a little marble crazy in my new bathroom, and this seemed like a fun, inexpensive way to add some purty shelves by the bathtub. Home Depot even carried threshold pieces in the same line of marble ("Grecian," which I am quite sure is mined in China) we used on the floor and feature wall. (Note: it feels super ridiculous to call something in my house a "feature wall," lah dee DAH, but I don't want to keep typing "wall behind the tub," so whatever. Feature THIS.)

Speaking of feature walls, as I seem to be doing: the wall behind the tub, she is so pretty.

The walls to either side are jealous of the pretty and want  makeovers. Well, sorry, wall to the left; the most you're getting is a towel bar or hook, IF that. But let's get on back over to the wall on the right.

That spray-painted Big Lots stool is real classy and all, but this little space needs something else. Like SHELVES!

The brackets I found at my nearest big box stores were either way too ornate or super basic. I decided to err on the side of super basic and purchased galvanized L brackets for 2.79 apiece. I chose to leave my threshold pieces at 36" long, but most big box stores will cut them to size for you if you purchase them there and ask nicely.

We couldn't find our stud finder (sidenote: does anyone else, when using a stud finder, find it hilarious to point it at your poor, beleaguered husband and make beeping noises, saying things like, "We've got a live one, HA HA"? Just me? Okay then. Poor Seth) and the ol' knock-on-the-wall technique was kind of tricky because there seemed to be a LOT of stuff behind the wall. I looked back through my pictures of the framing process and realized that, ah yes, there IS a variety of pipey stuff back there.

I realize no one knows what the hell this picture is. That big piece of plywood is where the tub is. The studs behind that and all the pipes zigzagging through them are the wall we are working with. Apologies.

Anyway, we measured carefully and knocked on the wall like we knew what we were doing, and then I took the kids to the zoo and let Seth take the blame finish up.

Styling these shelves will have to evolve organically, but for the time being, I scrounged around and borrowed from elsewhere in the house:
  • succulents in a thrifted milk glass planter
  • a sweet silver elephant candle holder that was a wedding gift (and that I am now thinking is much too heavy and will bring that whole wall down, exposing the toilet behind it, which would be much less pretty than the blank wall I was trying to pretty up to begin with. Anyway, an elephant with its trunk pointing up is supposed to bring you good luck? Maybe that will keep the shelves and wall from crashing down. Check back for updates.)
  • Some bath gel, oil, and salts that I'm pretty sure are eight or nine years old at the very least. Fancy! 
  • No bath salts of the snorty, crazy variety
  • a picture of the boys taking a bath (topical!)
  • some votives in little mercury glass holders, so I can sit in the tub and drink wine and light candles and cry and pretend I'm a less-attractive Sydney Bristow
  • some Jonathan Adler Happy Chic bud vases I snagged on clearance at 
  • a white ceramic filled candle with an adorable elephant on the lid, from that same Jonathan Adler collection (Note: this post is not sponsored by Jonathan Adler, mostly because that would be hilarious and sad for Jonathan Adler. AHA HA HA, he is Jonathan Adler, and my house is held together with duct tape and hot glue. Save me, Jonathan!)
Ostensibly these are things I would use in the tub. Displaying the actual things I use while in the tub (a razor, Entertainment Weekly, a glass of the finest boxed wine, Crest Whitestrips, a somewhat frightening foot rasp, the WTF podcast) would be less charming. Or maybe not, what do I know? We'll try that little vignette next week.
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Monday, August 27, 2012

Girly Golden Books baby shower

 Be sure to check out my Smarty Parties blog for details of the baby shower I did over the weekend. The theme was Little Golden Books, but with a decidedly girly twist.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Potter Party Peek!

Two posts in a row? Get out of town!

Well, I guess this isn't a real post, so much as an invitation to check out my other blog, Smarty Parties, to see what I have been doing, party-wise. I spent a weekend in Chicago recently working on a Harry Potter-themed birthday party and custom quest for a delightful ten-year-old girl. Check it out.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

In which I say "stool" a few too many times

So, apparently, passive-aggressive whining to myself on my blog is not enough to make a silver martini side table appear in my bathroom.

Although we are not technically (as in, not at all; as in we would fire ourselves if we were our own contractors. Our actual, awesome contractor is embarrassed of his association with us, I'm sure) finished with the upstairs remodel, the bathroom is 85% done. All that's left are some paint touch-ups, installing towel bars and hooks, maybe a shelf or two, and the linen closet. Oh, and the lovely silver martini side table from West Elm, but for some reason no one else cares about THAT. What could be more important than a stylish resting place for my bathtime drinks? According to my husband, having "functioning stairs" that "meet code" or whatever. Blah blah, potato-potahhto.

Truthfully, even I don't want to drop $129 on something that will only be seen by visitors to my upstairs bathroom, so I decided to improvise for the time being. I had one of the much-pinned and blogged Big Lots garden stools from a couple years back, and while, yes, $20 is an exciting price for a garden stool, sometimes you get what you pay for:

Apparently the $20 "garden stools" should not be used in an actual garden. The paint job on that sucker only holds up in the safe, fluorescent confines of the Big Lots store. The stool's cheap finish began flaking off almost the moment we placed it on our deck and the sunlight hit it, and I was left with something a bit more . . . distressed than I tend to prefer.

Anyway, I had this crappy-looking garden stool that needed a coat of paint, so I figured, why not paint it silver and see if it could fill the martini-table-shaped hole in my heart?

I wanted the finish to be extra shiny, so I chose Rustoleum's specialty metallic spray because it boasts a "bright reflective finish," and because the shiny top distracted me and told me to buy it.

I gave it a little shot of paint on top, just to make sure I liked the finish.

I loved what I saw, so I proceeded to paint that sucker.

After some sanding, a couple coats, some more sanding, and some touching up, it's still not perfect. But I like it so much better than before.

Oh, hello, spraypainted grass in the background. Oops?

I glued some felt around the bottom rim to protect the bathroom floors, and I dragged that bad boy upstairs.

Whee, ready for books and drinks and towels!

I don't know what side of the tub it will end up on. Probably wherever my head is? 

Without the flash, if anyone cares.

For a $5.99 can of spray paint, this stool is cool again. (Sorry. Cool Stool!)

I would even recommend buying a new garden stool from Big Lots (or Odd Lots, or Canadian Lots, or whatever it's called in other places), and painting it whatever color your heart desires. The only problems with my paint job came from the difference in paint finish on the still-painted parts versus the bare ceramic (or whatever it is, hell if I know). A still-painted stool would solve that problem (so would a modicum of prep work, or priming, but those are not my strong suits), and you'd still be paying one quarter the price of a fancier stool or side table. I didn't put any weather-resistant coating on this stool because it's going to stay inside my house, but I would recommend some sort of polyacrylic (or whatever is recommended by someone who knows what she's talking about--probably not me, or anyone at Big Lots) to protect it from the elements. I hope I don't need anything to protect it from sloshed vinho verde? Stay tuned!

I'm off to take a bath now!

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back to School Cool

Oh, hi! I wish I could tell you I have been absent from blogging because we have just been workin' away at the ol' staircase to finish the renovation. Ah haaaaa haa ha. Sadly, we have just been busy doing normal, boring, non-constructive things that have not resulted in any new stairs.

One of those things was the start of school! Our school district has moved to a "balanced calendar," with an earlier start date and more breaks throughout the year. As a result, the first day this year was August 1st! Here are my little guys, all ready for Graham's first day of kindergarten.

Dean is understandably a little confused by the situation.

If I'd had any spare time at all, which I didn't, I wanted to have a little back-to-school celebration for Graham. Hopefully as he gets older, I can make a little tradition of this for him and his friends and neighbors. I thought these pictures from Dean's first birthday back in April, "The Dean's List," were appropriate for Back to School party planning. So, (re-) enjoy these, and hopefully I'll be back soon with some house updates!

Apples for the teacher cake pops! In the background: "chex mark mix" (a stretch, I know), and "honor roll-ups."

Vintage typewriter, "smart cookies" (letter cookies from Trader Joe's), text books, a silver trophy cup, pennants.

A vintage school desk makes a great "photo booth" setting. Mini chalkboards let guests hold messages.
Pass out favors brown-bag style, with lunch bags personalized with name pennants.
Vintage cafeteria trays are fun for back-to-school snacks.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hotter than the 4th of July

Yeah, so that's what I have to look forward to over the next few days. Good times. Anyway, if we haven't all melted or spontaneously combusted by next week, I am looking forward to the Fourth of July activities in my neighborhood.

We usually have a little bike parade, in which all the kiddos from the street decorate their bikes, trikes, strollers, wagons, and whathaveyou, and march around.

Usually, I invite the family over to watch from our front yard. Last year I thought I might give them some snacks to enjoy while they watched (and waited for us to make it to our end of the street).

Mostly I just scrounged up anything in my house that was red, white or blue, and threw it in the front yard. The only things I made were red velvet whoopie pies and some strawberry lemonade.

Whoopie pies will almost certainly not withstand a 100+ degree afternoon, so I'm trying to think of other options for this year. Can we have the parade inside? Or in Maine? Graham did attempt to watch fireworks from inside last year.

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