A Planter Full O’ Pumpkins

I am frequently accused of trying to push the seasons.  When it’s summer, I want it to be autumn.  When it’s autumn, I wish for winter.  I can’t wait for winter to end to bring me spring.  And really, can’t spring just hurry up and warm up to bring me summer?  The thing about it is that I love each season so very much, and there’s always something to get excited about at the advent of each new part of the year.

With autumn fully in swing, it has, of course, become pumpkin season.  I love watching my munchkin get excited with each new decoration I put out.  She really has an eye for detail, so as soon as I put anything new out, she notices it immediately and then points, stares, and babbles in wonder.  I mean, with such an appreciation for all of my work, how could I not get into each new season these days?

And then it comes back to some of the limitations that there are when it comes to decorating.  Even if I weren’t renting, I would still need to resist the temptation to procure a bunch of decorations that won’t necessarily work from house to house.  Not to mention, I need to work with the space that I have.  Our current home has a very narrow staircase leading up to the front door.  Where one might typically set a pumpkin on the steps, if I did so here, it would be nearly impossible to get up the stairs, and I don’t want to create a hazard for my trick-or-treaters.  On top of that, if I set a pumpkin just next to the door, it would be obscured by the railing and thus be rendered quite pointless as a form of decor.  I had just the solution this year, though:  my window box planters!

I purchased some to attach to the railing (no drilling needed!) to display some flowers this past spring since there are ZERO flower beds at my current abode.  But really, who says that flowers are the only things that need to “grow” in there??

With a few more than a dozen mini pumpkins, a couple of pie pumpkins, and one big pumpkin, I found a happy compromise to the limitations presented by my front stoop.  I decided to alternate the flower boxes between solid orange mini pumpkins and the variegated white/orange pumpkins.  I set some slightly larger pie pumpkins up on the railing to frame the doorway, and there’s the big pumpkin at the bottom of the stairs just off to the grass (again, no tripping hazards on Halloween!).  Add in a cute seasonal flag and an autumn-themed wreath for the front door, and I’m set until the next holiday season rolls around!

Have you had to overcome any obstacles in your seasonal preparations?  What sort of decor do you set out each year?

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Butterflies, Flutterbys, Everywhere Butterflies

Frequently, I take inspiration from a variety of websites and products when I’m making things around my house, but from time to time the stars align and inspiration strikes me of its own accord.  With so many preparations in the last few days before the big event of my daughter’s golden, first birthday party, it might be deemed miraculous that I still had my wits about me enough to get the surplus creative juices flowing.  Sometimes, I even surprise myself.  If my previous posts had not been any such indication, I operate under a budget and where I can cut costs, I most assuredly will.  It was thus that I decided to not only create my own fruit tray (I mean really, it’s fruit… not that difficult), but to also make it a butterfly fruit tray to further augment the theme within my modest home.  In addition to the obvious need of fruit (I chose bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes — a variety of colors is helpful for my plan, but you can use whatever fruit you like), my plan also called for a large, flat, clear plastic tray (purchased at my local grocery store for just a few dollars), some wax paper, scotch tape, and a permanent marker.  I outlined the tray onto the wax paper so I would know how much space I had to work with, and then I set to work on my butterfly making.  It took me a few tries to get it to look the way that I wanted, but I finally created a simple design that best utilized the space provided and was, more or less, aesthetically pleasing.

Once the design was complete, I cut out the butterfly, and taped it with clear, scotch tape to the *bottom* of the tray.  Like so:

Are you getting where I’m going with this?  From here, it was a simple manner of placing the fruit in the allotted space as indicated by the outline showing through the bottom of the tray.  I used the bananas for the body, cut the blueberries in half for little antennae, and then used alternating colors of the strawberries, grapes, and remaining blueberries and bananas to best fill in the pattern.

I found that cutting some of the strawberries and grapes in half made for a more sturdy foundation for stacking of the fruit, otherwise the little guys would roll away.  In addition to the fruit tray, we also served some freshly cooked shrimp with cocktail sauce, pizza dip (thanks, Paula!), Chili & Garlic Chex Mix (gluten-free recipe — I baked it on a cookie sheet at 250 for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes, instead of microwaving to make it more crisp), deviled eggs (my mom’s most yummy recipe), Squisite Squares (they are peanut butter and chocolate bars that we have a recipe for), Ham Delights (another old family favorite — think a sort of ham and cheese roll), and some sherbet punch (1 part OJ, 2 parts Hawaiian punch, 2 parts ginger ale, and enough scoops of rainbow sherbet to cover the top of the punch bowl — I really did it all based upon color.  Poor the juice and punch appropriately until you get an appealing color).

Paper plates and napkins were found on sale (of course!) at Target.  And if you were wondering, I was not so silly of a Mama to forget the most important thing:  CAKE!

My local grocer will give you a free “Smash Cupcake” to go with any sheet cake purchase for a 1st birthday.  Perfection!  I took the bakery a copy of the image that I created for the invitations, and they were able to put it on both the cake and cupcake for me.  If you noticed my vase in the corner, I took my handy permanent marker, hot glue gun, and some plastic butterflies that I had gotten at Michael’s (I told you in my post on the high chair that I found a million uses for my clearance priced butterfly assortment!)  FYI:  the butterflies still came off easily with a bit of pressure applied and the permanent marker washed off with some detergent, so I had my old vase back at the end of it all, but I would still recommend only use one that you’re willing to sacrifice to the cause, just in case.

            

The roses are Rainbow Roses from Argentina.  I don’t question their methods in applying the dyes as they do, I just accept them as really pretty flowers and the perfect touch for my little Munchkin’s first birthday party!

Finally, after putting up some more butterflies in various places around the house (remember the ones I had on the cookbooks near my party favors?)…

…and carefully putting up some pink and polka dot streamers, pink balloons, butterfly and birthday-themed mylar balloons, banners, and other signs displaying the excitement that was my little one’s first birthday…

…I was done!  The party went off without a hitch, and every last detail over which I had labored came together to make for the perfect event befitting a butterfly-themed first birthday, and for a golden first birthday, at that (1 on the 1st!).

Is there a little one for whom you are planning a birthday party in the future?  What theme are you using?  Have fun, no matter what you do, and take pictures!!

Fluttery Favors

Some days, I must reflect how nice it is to live in the age of Martha Stewart.  You’ve got to hand it to her; she has a way with a glue gun.  With my daughter’s recent first (and golden!) birthday party, it should be unsurprising that the good lady would provide some inspiration for the big event.  Dearest Martha actually has a whole collection of butterfly-themed crafts.  What really piqued my interest were some party favor bags.  Here’s the image from her site (and you can click through if you’re looking for additional butterfly-themed goodness!)

The basic premise behind this is that you have two different colored paper favor/lunch bags.  Party City has a great supply of a variety of colors of just such favor bags —  they’re a little brighter in color than what Martha used, but for my little munchkin’s party, bright, happy colors were just what I wanted anyway.  In any case, the outer bag (green) gets trimmed to look like 3D grass over the under bag (white).  To save time, I cut all of my green bags while they were still flat.  The key to doing this is keeping all of your cuts in the paper above the line where the bottom gets folded up, otherwise, you’ll be cutting into the bottom.  This allowed me to — shall we say — mow the lawn —  of the front, back, and sides of the bag all at the same time.  When you you have several bags on the docket and lots of little pieces of grass to create, this makes for an important time saver.  Once cut, you put a little bit of glue, of the glue stick variety, to the bottom of the inner white bag so that once placed inside of the grassy exterior, they will stay together.

In my previous post on my butterfly-themed high chair decor, I mentioned that I had oodles of butterfly clip-ons that I would put to good use.  In addition to the high chair, this was one more way that I made good use of all of my clearance-priced butterfly decor that I purchased from Michael’s.  I also decided to make a slight adjustment to Martha’s original design.  I’m never a big fan of unnecessary empty space, and the white void seemed to be the perfect canvas to tie into the original design that I made for munchkin’s butterfly invitations.  Basically, it seemed like the bag needed some loop-de-loos to me.  So with the help of my handy permanent marker, I added in my swirly dotted lines and affixed the butterfly to the side where the motion line ended.  Here’s my finished project, looking rather like a rabble of butterflies, taking flight from my countertop.

To fill my bags, I opted to bake some cookies — butterfly-shaped, of course!  I found a big butterfly cookie cutter at Bed, Bath, & Beyond and enlisted my mom to help me bake them up prior to the event:  sugar cookie butterflies with pink frosting for my little munchkin.  Also, I filled the bottom of the bag with some raspberry chocolates to boot.  Also, I cropped the picture wide so that you could see another example of my usage of some of my butterfly clips.  I had a bevy of different styles of butterflies.  The ones that I used on the favor bags had more fabric-y of wings with sequins affixed.  As seen on my cookbooks (and elsewhere about my house), I dispersed larger paper-cut-out type butterflies anywhere that I could to further extend the theme throughout our party area.  I was going for a subtle and classy, yet fun-filled way to extend my theme throughout.

Still to come:  more details on decor and food, all in a butterfly-motif!

Ring Around the Stove-y

Young Housewife, Oil on canvas. The Russian Mu...

I’ve had my fair share of moves.  With each home, whether it was as a child and my parents bought a house or as an adult and we have rented, there has been an indeterminate quantity of cleaning that needed to be done.  Some places required more than others.  Some jobs were so “icky” at our previous house that I had to outsource to my husband.  He just *loves* it when I give him a good “icky” job to do.  😉  With out current home, we lucked out.  The previous tenants did an amazing job getting things cleaned up, patched up, painted over, etc.  Of course, I wanted to have the bathrooms recleaned to satisfy my own standard, but really it was pretty low maintenance.  That being said, there were a few hidden offenders.  Those little reminders that this has not always been your home.  Those little things that make you daydream for a moment about keeping your own house and having everything just as you like it…

I will say that cleaning out the microwave vent was a special gem of a task.  There are not words to describe that monstrosity, and I would be horrified and embarrassed to show pictures of that cesspool on here.  My other recent adventure has been with those lovely rings on the ceramic stove top.  You know the ones.  They’d accumulated after years of spill overs.  You can spray them with cleaner to your heart’s content, but they’ll still be there glaring at you, leaving bits of brown on your paper towels as a sort of trophy attesting to the fact that they had won another battle against the cleaning agents.  I even brought in the big guns:  my mom.  Alas, not even she could easily get up the rings around the burners.  Yesterday, I decided that enough was enough.

I equipped myself with a brand new Magic Eraser, some 409, paper towels, and my handy scraper.  The poor Magic Eraser never stood a chance.  It put up a good fight, but the rings remained, and after just one extended use, the poor thing already looked like the “time to throw it out after many uses” image on the back of the box.  RIP little Magic Eraser.  You lived an honorable life.  It was down to my scraper.  When you are sitting there with a blade in your hand scraping away bits of debris, it’s hard not to let your mind wander pondering what meal had created this crud that now sits before you, coming off the stove now one fleck of dust at a time.  After several hours of scraping, I am proud to say that *half* of my stove is now beautiful.  I even temporarily resurrected my Magic Eraser to give it a final victory lap across the surface, cleaning off the final bits of grime, heading now not to the corner of the counter but to its final resting place of the trashcan.

I’m the sort who takes pleasure in those tasks and hobbies that give concrete results.  At the beginning of the day yesterday, I had a giant ring around my two big burners.  Now at least, half of it is gone, and I have a date with the other half on Friday.  Much like the childhood nursery rhyme, “Ring Around the Rosies,” which can both seem so simple and yet hide those hidden indicators of the plague, my rings around the stove were just like two big eyes of filth staring me down from the otherwise shiny gleam of the cooking surface.  I know that until I come to a day when my husband and I decide to build a house from scratch, there will be other “Rings Around the Stoves” laying in wait for me in each home in some incarnation or another.  I suppose that’s a small price to pay for the adventures that are our moves.  There really is a thrill to it, and I refuse to turn my husband into a geo-bachelor.  If he goes.  I go.  Well, so far as the Navy will let me anyway.  Besides, it’s nice to have the satisfaction that I have left each home a little better than I found it in some respect or another.  I feel like it’s my duty to do so.  For my family.  For myself.  For the military community.  Maybe the last is a bit of a stretch, but I know that each individual’s actions have the opportunity to impact the reputation of the group at large.  So if my stove rings are the plague, I guess that makes me the vaccine, and a cure has to start somewhere, even if it’s in but the smallest and most unassuming of ways.  Just one of many of the jobs of the Navy wife:  saving the world one stove ring at a time!

A Highchair Fit for a Birthday Butterfly

It seems that it doesn’t take a lot of searching on the internet these days to find examples of how to froufrou up your standard high chair in preparation for your special little girls’ birthday.  I mean, really, can she eat her first birthday cake if she isn’t surrounded by tons of tulle and frills?  Clearly it just wouldn’t be the same otherwise.  I wanted to make my birthday butterfly a special seat, too, but I honestly don’t know how mothers with such active little munchkins, such as mine, even have time for no-sew tutu decor like some of the samples I found online.  So much cutting of tulle…  So much tying of knots…  Even with it being munchkin’s *golden* first birthday, there are limits to both my budget and the time I want to spend on decorations.  Frankly, I’d rather spend my time with my silly little munchkin!  Yet again, it was Michael’s to the rescue!  (And yes, Target, you were there to help me, too!)   For your reference, here’s my high chair in the “before” state:

When I was in Michael’s searching for supplies for the invitations, I happened upon some very special ribbon.  It’s the sort that you buy by the yard, and it had pre-cut strips of tulle-like ribbon hanging down as a sort of fringe.  It came in a couple of colors (ivory, white, etc.), but my eyes delighted upon the sight of some in a pale pink color!  Additionally, butterfly-themed is definitely the way to go in terms of finding cheap decorations.  They had TONS of clip-on butterfly decorations in different colors, sizes, and styles on clearance.  Needless to say, I purchased a little bit of everything, and definitely found a use for every last little fluttery butterfly (details on more decor to come!).  In any case, the ribbon solved my problems in terms of being even less work than any instructions I came across for even a no-sew tutu-high chair.  When you have a 1-year old running around the house and trying to get into everything, easier and faster is always better.  Here’s what I used:

On the left, you can see the fancy-shmancy ribbon I found.  For just a couple of dollars, I got 3 yards of it (plenty of extra).  The big butterfly was on clearance from $3.99 to $0.99.   I already had the Scotch velcro on hand, so it wasn’t any additional cost for me, but you could pick some up for a few dollars from Target or any other such store.  From there, I just started at one end of the high chair tray applying small pieces of the fasteners every couple of inches around the edge. ( I recommend putting the plasticy sides on the tray and the softer sides on the ribbon — when you’re not using the decor, the plastic-sided velcro pieces will still be on the tray and those pieces won’t pick up bits of food from your little munchkin as easily as the fabric-sided pieces will.)   I applied similarly sized pieces to the fringed ribbon at the same time as the tray so that I could make certain that the pieces were similarly spaced.  Then, I cut the ribbon once I had made it all of the way around the edge, and clipped on the butterfly to the fringe.  That’s it.  It really could not have possibly been any easier.  The nice thing about this plan is that I could easily take down the fringe until the big day arrived and could throw it back up in less than a minute just before the party began.  This prevented any sticky fingers from messing up my faux-tutu before its official debut.

Finally, in addition to giving the high chair some nice trim, I wanted some wings behind my munchkin to make the pictures extra special (sorry — no pictures of her on her birthday, but trust me — they were *super* cute!).  First, I went into Party City and found some wings for about $16.  It was a little more than I wanted to spend, but I didn’t think I’d find anything much cheaper.  Ha!  I definitely returned those bad boys, because Target had a cute pink set for $1!!  Oh yeah!

The wings were made for toddlers to wear.  You can kind of see the elastic loops that are meant for little ones to stick their arms through.  Instead, I took the loops and threaded them over the corners of the high chair.  These little wings were just the right size so that they would show up behind my little lady without being too big to not fit well within the chair (or to make it too hard to capture them in pictures!).  So with all of that said, here’s my final project:

I spent all of about $6 and it took me roughly 5 minutes to do the initial set up (and another 1 minute to reassemble on party day).  It really couldn’t have been much more budget-friendly, and the cuteness factor on our birthday pictures was definitely worth it!

Butterfly-Themed Golden, First Birthday Invitations

My little munchkin recently had her first birthday, and it was perfect.  As always, she was cute as a button, and the event was just what I was hoping for.  I know, I know, she’s a one-year-old.  She doesn’t really appreciate it the way I (her party-planning Mommy) did.  Did she really need a big to-do?  Isn’t it a little overboard?  Well, for starters, I think she did have fun with the wrapping paper and seeing everyone, but here’s the other difference:  it was her GOLDEN birthday!  She turned 1 on the 1st.  I think that’s an extra fun milestone, and heaven forbid she someday has a sibling who has his or her golden birthday at an older age and she wonders why we didn’t do something special for her.  No, no.  Not here.  We have the pictures to prove it.  Her golden birthday was definitely marked, and fun was had by all!

The first step in our big celebration was to get some invitations out, of course.  Can’t have much of an event if no one knows about it, and no one comes.  I looked around at some pre-made invitations, but couldn’t find anything that quite fit the occasion.  While there are abundant first birthday and even a few golden birthday invites out there, there is a paucity of golden, first birthday invites to be found. Additionally, I wanted to tie in the butterfly theme that I had decided upon.  My daughter’s room has butterflies everywhere, plus she enjoys pointing to butterflies both in her room and the real ones outside, so I’ve decided that she’s happy with the theme, as well.

I’ve always enjoyed making up little rhymes, so I figured the invitations would be prime real estate for one of my little ditties.  I worked on a play on “Sugar and Spice” and came up with the following:

Sugar and spice and everything fun:
This sweet, sassy girl is finally one!
As squirmy as a caterpillar, but a true butterfly beauty;
It’s the Golden Birthday of our little cutie!

If you knew my daughter, you would appreciate how precisely this describes her.  I know I’m biased, but I truly believe she is one of the most beautiful babies that ever graced this Earth.  Personality is also abundant in my little wiggle-worm.  I feel like she inherited a lot of spunk from her great-grandparents.  I wish she could grow up knowing each of them, but I figure if she ever wants to witness the sparkle and spunkiness they had, she need only take a look in the mirror at her own mischievous eyes.  I digress.

So, with my little poem and my butterfly theme in mind, I created this sort of basic invitation:

I’ve edited out some of the personal details, but you’ll notice that there’s a lack of color and a boring space in the top right.  This is where I decided to have some fun.  1) I decided to mount the invitations (ie paste) onto some pretty gold card stock that I found in Michael’s.  2) I really wanted to go all bling with the embellishments, so I also purchased some little sticker pastel-colored rhinestones and some coordinating glitter gel pens.  3) The crowning glory was from a package of 3D butterfly stickers.  There were 9 different butterflies in the package allowing for each invitation to be a little bit different.  Maybe I got a little carried away, but I had a ton of fun with it.  Tadaaa!

First, I pasted the printed invites onto the gold cards.  Second, I colored in the flowers with the glitter pens to give them that little sparkle and then used a silver pen to make the loop-de-loops for the butterfly’s motion.  Then, I stuck on the butterflies (being careful to try to keep the wings mostly within the confines of the outer card stock so that they’d fit into the envelopes).  Finally, I added on the rhinestones to the corners.  I used a little one opposite of the butterfly and big ones in the other two corners to sort of balance it out, but I’m a stickler for details like that.  Oh, and really… why stop there?  I also drew what I refer to as my “Number One Butterfly” on the flap of each envelope.  Just a happy little hint to what’s to be found on the inside of the envelope when each recipient checks the mail:

And yes, those are gold envelopes.  I got them as a package with the gold cards that I mounted the invitations on, so I knew they would fit inside.  The key to the simplicity of this project was finding the gold cards a smidge large than the white card stock that I printed on for the main portion of the invite.  To make 18 invitations, I spent about $40 at Michael’s.  I was the first to admit that I probably could have just gotten some simple first birthday invites ready-made and saved a few dollars and no one would have been the wiser, even if they weren’t golden or butterfly-bedazzled, but as my husband (bless him!) was quick to point out, “Yeah, but you wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun!”  So true.  So true.

Look for coming blog entries on more butterfly-themed excitement from her birthday.  All super easy, low cost, and fun!

Know Thy Clearance Sections: The Perfect Word Art for the Perfect Space

We rent our current house, and we know we’ll only be here for a few years, so you can imagine that “permanent” is not a useful term when it comes to decorating.  “Expensive” is another one you won’t see me flout around.  Even if I find the single most perfect item to go in a room, there’s nothing that says it will go in the next home we live in or any other home further down the road.  Thus, I say, “Know Thy Clearance Sections.”

I don’t ever want to feel like I have to use some little piece of decor just because it cost me an arm and a leg, and I also don’t want to face my husband with a huge receipt for something that I can’t use long-term.  Being on a tight budget, however, does not mean that I can’t find the perfect piece at a great price.  Two of my favorite places to shop are Kohl’s and Target.  It’s not that you can’t find more expensive things there, but if you’re smart about your shopping, you can find some extraordinarily good deals.  Both places have special items on sale or clearance daily.  Sale items are typically interspersed with their more expensive cousins, but there are some magical sections of clearance that are worth investigating on a regular basis.  In either store, for each main section (home, bath, toys, kids, shoes, etc.) I have found that there is at least one shelf or rack that is clearly labeled “clearance” and has new items added to it on an almost weekly basis.  It is here that I find some of the best things for my house, my husband and me, or my little munchkin.  Go to your local stores, and familiarize yourself with your clearance sections; it will be worth your while.  On the flip side, I will say it is rare for me to make a “quick trip” into either store, because every time I go in, I like to troll along through each clearance section each time I visit.  You just never know what you’ll find!  Items might be marked down anywhere from 30% to 80% off depending upon the item, manufacturer, etc.  Frequently, I find things that are just what I wanted and are of equal or better quality to more expensive items elsewhere in the store or in other stores altogether.

Our current master bedroom has a vaulted ceiling and provides a huge blank space above our bed.  In our previous home, we had a sort of collage of artwork above the bed from Quebec where we honeymooned.  In general, this room is much bigger, and so the artwork has become scattered to smaller spots throughout the space, thus leaving the gaping white above the headboard.  See below.

Thankfully, Kohl’s came to the rescue.  Removable vinyl lettering seems to be very en vogue right now, which is perfect for a military home.  They go up easily, and they come down easily.  No worries about how to “fix it” when we move out a few years down the road.  In one of my magical clearance sections, I came across one such vinyl set that was going to be just perfect for our room.  I should start with saying that when my husband and I got married, I took issue with the “until we are parted by death” portion of the Episcopal vows, and so we dropped that and subbed in “forever and ever.”  My husband is stuck with me and just me – forever!  So you can imagine, when I found the lettering set that reads, “Just one lifetime won’t be enough for us,” I knew it would be more than perfect for our room.  To top it off, instead of the regular price of $29.99, it was on clearance at Kohl’s for $11.99.  Add in a 20% off shopping pass (which Kohl’s issues out almost every other week in the mail or via e-mail), and that brings it down to $9.60.  In case you were wondering, that’s 68% off.  My kind of deal.

Down below, you can see the finished project.  My set was made by Once Upon a Wall, and while it is “removable” it is not “reusable.”  You can do some minor adjustments as you are applying it to the wall, but you really want to make certain that you have measured out its height to where you want it to be and that the words will by and large be level.  Additionally, because the letters come rolled up on application paper inside of a tube, you definitely want to give it some time, as per the instructions, to flatten out, but even with that, I found that there would be a few creases in the paper.  What I did (and would suggest), is try to corral the creases into the spaces in between the words.  This will prevent there from being bubbles under the letters.  All in all, I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and love that it fills some of the space above the bed with love (and all on a “temporary home” budget)!