Monday, January 16, 2012

Great Grandparent Gift Find - Button Recorder

I was so excited when I found these adorable Talkatoo Button Recorders on Amazon when searching for grandparent holiday gifts.

They are marketed for parents to give to their kids, but my parents and my mother in law loved them. We live on opposite coasts, and the grandparents tell me that they replay the message from my kids all the time.

My mom went to lunch the other day and brought it along to show off to her girlfriends.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Butterfly Birthday Party

My daughter and I were really happy with the outcome of her butterfly themed fourth birthday party, so I thought I'd share the results.

I love birthday parties, but planning them does take some thinking on my part because I have quite a few constraints I need to work with:

1) I have a very low budget.
2) My house is too small to host a party.
3) We can't have an outdoor party during my daughter's birthday month.
4) I don't bake.

Here is what we came up with for this year:

Location: Local fitness club childcare room with amazing play structure, open play space, and tables for projects with an adjacent room with tables for food and cake.

Theme: Butterflies. Talked her out of princesses and into butterflies when we attended the Bonjour Butterfly Fancy Nancy ballet a few months before her birthday.

Activity segment of party: Kids had a blast on the play structure, but I wanted some activities set up at the tables to make sure every kid had something to do.

Table 1: Coloring center. Printed out some butterflies and bugs for kids to color.

Table 2: Pony beads with easy to use pony bracelets from Oriental Trading Company. Big hit! Her friends are still wearing their bracelets. Mini bottles of butterfly bubbles also from Oriental Trading Company.
Food: We ordered pizza for delivery and brought some junk food and juice boxes. Hey - that's what makes kids parties fun and easy, right?

Dessert: This is what really made the party look special - my friend Lindsey has an amazing company called Happiness Baked and made us custom cookies to match our paper plates. How does the birthday girl blow out candles if you serve cookies instead of cake? Her own personal mini cake of course!! Made by Lindsey with matching mini butterfly cookies decorating the cake.

Table: I ordered the butterfly paper products online and got lucky when the party store happened to have a matching mylar balloon.

Favors: Wings! I have a lot more amazing photos, but I'm not yet sure about including any kids' faces online. The kids running around in wings was really cute. My daughter's friends are all still using their wings in their dress up bins at home. We got multi-colored pastel wings for the girls, and black wings for the boys (mostly little 2 year old younger sibling boys). There was an infant girl at the party and she looked adorable in the wings too.

When looking for them I discovered the most amazing website for dress up supplies: Halo Heaven - super cute small company with really cheap deals and great customer service.

Birthday Girl Outfit: Very important part of any party, right? We ordered this headband from Halo Heaven when we ordered the wings in a darker pink color. She got one pair of wings for herself in a solid dark pink so that her wings would be different from the other girls.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Little Ballerina

I picked up this adorable ballet leotard with attached tutu at Nordstrom Rack for my four year old daughter for about $15. I didn't just happen upon it - I have been checking my local Rack on a regular basis for an update to their Popatu brand stock. Popatu makes really cute, yet often over the top ballet type clothes for little girls. I needed something that was special, but not too distracting to wear to class. I found this one amongst a sea of bright rainbow colored tutus and leotards with princess crowns. I had to get past the weird armbands it came with and realized it was perfect - and the only one they had was the perfect size for my daughter.

I held onto it until the holidays. I thought she would think it was more special if she received it as a holiday gift.

She loves it - how do I know? Her class was all standing still and facing the mirror as the instructor was explaining something - all except my daughter who was making all sorts of cute poses in the mirror. She posed for this photo before class and instructed me to text/e-mail it to a list of family members.

Oreo Cookie Cake

OK, so I don't like to bake. Sometimes I enjoy cooking if there aren't any kids whining in the background, but baking is not really my thing. Unfortunately for me, my husband has a big sweet tooth, so I have to make an effort sometimes. One of his favorite sweets is Oreo Cookies, so I came up with this idea to make for his birthday cake. I do like to design things, so I was happy with how it came out. It actually tasted good too.

I found the recipe below online and then added some oreos, white icing, and black and white candles. It looked cute and tasted great.

Krissy's Easy Chocolate Triple Layer Pie

recipe image
Rated: rating
Submitted By: Krissy Terwilliger (Jinkerson)
Photo By: Carley
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Ready In: 4 Hours 10 Minutes
Servings: 8
"This is the best and easiest chocolate pie ever. There never are any leftovers!"
2 cups cold milk
2 (3.9 ounce) packages instant chocolate
pudding mix
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
, chocolate
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped
topping, thawed
1/2 cup chocolate shavings
1. In a large bowl, mix milk and pudding. Beat with wire whisk for 1 minute. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of pudding into graham cracker crust.
2. Gently fold in 1/2 of the whipped topping into remaining pudding. Spread this mixture over the pudding layer in crust. Top with remaining whipped topping. Garnish with chocolate shavings and cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2012 Printed from 1/11/201

Sunday, January 8, 2012

American Girl Sized Doll House/Toy Car Garage

I just submitted this to and don't know yet if it will be published there or not. I love Ikea Hackers - they helped me choose the Kura and gave me the idea for this project made from an Ikea Bookshelf. The only problem with submitting a hack to them is that you are only allowed five photos. I don't think five photos is enough - so here is my Ikea "hack" with a lot more photos :)

Sitting in the "bedroom" (top of the bookshelf):

Walk in closet:



Dining Room:

Garage (with wooden train set stored in the bin):

MATERIALS: Ikea Besta Shelf Unit, two Ikea Inreda Half Shelves, black and white checkered contact paper, self adhesive vinyl tiles (12inx12in from Home Depot - wood look for kitchen and tile look for bathroom), currogated cardboard (Save Besta box!) and ultra plush fabric for carpeted rooms (more plush than fleece), poster board and scrapbook paper (12inx12in) for walls, doll furniture (See Description for more details), utility knife, straight edge, rubber cement, spray adhesive, mounting squares, mini hooks, storage containers, metal wire saran wrap holder, plastic mirror sheet

This was designed for a small space in a room shared by my 4 year old girl and 2 year old boy. If you have more space or only girls you may want to modify this by adding more Besta units, taking away the garage etc. Please note that the "garage" is not big enough to hold American Girl/Our Generation sized cars. It was designed for my kids' extensive collection of various sized toy cars and trains. Of the five "rooms" (four inside, fifth on the top) in the doll house section three (including the top) hold a standing 18 inch doll, and two only hold the dolls in a sitting position. Getting rid of the garage level would allow for the dolls to stand in all of the rooms.

My kids sleep in a Kura bed right next to the house, which allows my daughter (who sleeps on the top bunk) to put her dollies to bed every night right from her bed without needing a stool. I chose the Besta because of the depth and adjustabity of the shelves. My husband and I are not handy enough to construct something ourselves out of plywood, and nothing exists in the market (unless you pay someone on etsy big bucks to make it for you) to play house with large sized dolls.

View from my daughter's bed:

I considered the Expedit as it is also deep enough, but it would have required the addition of a plywood piece to the back and more holes to change shelf positions. If you are handy and have an Expedit it would probably work. Lots more Expedits on Craigslist than Bestas.

STEP 1: Garage floor. Cover the entire Bottom piece of the Besta unit with checkered contact paper as well as one of the Inreda shelves. Cut small x's into the four holes necessary for attaching the side pieces. Do not cut the holes intended for leveling the feet. Cut along the line where the back panel will slide in. I trimmed my contact paper first so that the squares on the front edge where whole sqaures instead of partial squares.

STEP 2: Bathroom and kitchen floors. Using two of the full sized shelves, measure and cut your vinyl tiles with a utility knife so that you are happy with the way the patterns line up. My kitchen floor tiles were very easy. The bathroom tiles I chose had to be cut quite extensively so that I was happy with how the pattern came together. I had to cut around some of the small squares to piece them together. The result is slightly messy but looks better from far away.

STEP 3: Carpeting. Cut out three pieces of corrugated cardboard. The box the Besta came in is perfect. One piece should fit the entire top of the unit, and the two smaller pieces should fit the shelves. No need to measure, just place the shelves on top of the cardboard, kneel to hold it in place, and cut out the shape with a knife. Cut out three pieces of the plush fabric sho that they are a few inches wider than the cardboard on all sides. Lay the cardboard on top and cut off the corners. Lay a tarp outside and attach the cardboard to the fabric with the spray adhesive. spray the back side to fold over and attach the remaining fabric. I didn't bother gluing the finsihed pieces to the shelves.

STEP 4: Assemble the unit/anchor to wall. The unit needs to be assembled at this point using the directions from Ikea. I used props to help me figure out where to put the shelves. I used a Kusiner box from Ikea for my son’s wooden train track/train collection and placed it to decide where to put the first shelf. I then stood the American Girl doll up in the "kitchen" to decide where to place the next shelf, and I sat her at her table and chairs to find the minimum height for the dining area. The Inreda shelves in the garage and closet are both three or four holes down from the top. You will have two extra unused shelves when you are done. I did not use the permanent hardware included for use with the middle shelves, only the moveable ones.

STEP 5: Wallpaper. Measure and cut three pieces of poster board for each of the doll house rooms (One for the back wall and two for the side walls). Lay them out next to each other and figure out how to piece together your scrapbook paper. Glue the paper over the crack between the pieces of poster board and then fold so that you don't have gaps in your wallpaper at the corners of your rooms. Piecing together 12x12 pieces of patterned scrapbook paper can acutally be quite frustrating when trying to get the patterns to line up. I would recommend placing any seams towards the bottom half of the wall. You might also want to consider real wallpaper scraps or wrapping paper. Make sure you remove the carpet pieces before measuring for or place the wallpaper. I tried mounting the wallpaper with a glue gun and it didn't work (too shiny) so I ended up using mounting squares. Not sure if I like them because they are thick and make the walls stick out slightly where the mounting squares are placed. You may want to mount the finished poster board another way.

****Tricky walk in closet: When measuring the poster board for the walk in closet stick a small finishing nail in the holes where you want your Inreda shelf. Push the poster board onto each nail until you get a small impression and then pop the actual hardware through the hole. After you glue on the scrapbook paper pop the hardware through again.

After the wallpaper is mounted in all of the rooms, the walk in closet can be finished by installing the plain white inreda shelf and jamming the saran wrap holder (I ordered one on Amazon) in sideways. The front rack can be bent up to keep dresses from hitting the floor and the cute hangers are from Ebay. The drawers are Sterilite from Target.

STEP 6: Furnish. This was the trickiest part, as this is a fairly small house for such a big doll. Some American Girl furniture may not fit well in the house. I will tell you everything I chose here: The bed is an Ikea Duktig bed. The bedding is sewn from leftover carpet material from the house, my daughter’s old baby blankets and onesies, and some scraps from the bag her sheets came in from Target (so they match hers). The pillow and sheets are reversible :)

The table and chairs are Pottery Barn Kids, the Kitchen and Bathtub are Our Generation from Target, and the batroom toilet and sink are a retired item from Ebay - a "Mommy Gotta Go Doll" (comes with a baby doll that is potty training - shown in photo) The mini hooks are 3M with the adhesive trimmed or turned around, the mirror sheet is from a craft store, and the mini storage tubs are Ikea GlIS boxes with lids.

I didn't adhere any furniture to the house. This was all meant to be taken out and played with on the floor if the mood strikes, or played with in the house. My kids have been playing "picnic":

The cute little tires and hubcaps hanging in the garage are Ridemakerz from Toys R Us. The play rug is from Rugs USA (online).

Future plans to add more detail: Baseboards (red electrical tape in the garage and white foam sheets in the house part), little picture frames, clocks, etc.

This is my first online DIY post because I couldn't have done it without the tons of posts I sifted through for inspiration - so thanks to all of you!


Nursery to Big Kid Room

My first brag - transitioning the nursery to a big kid bedroom

My two little ones were sharing a sweet little nursery. The five year plan for owning our little townhouse had turned into a ten year plan due to the real estate market. I planned on two little ones in a tiny bedroom, but never pictured two bigger ones in the same bedroom.

My four year old daughter could touch both ends of her little white toddler bed when she stretched out, and my almost two year old little boy was learning how to climb into his crib by himself - how long until he climbed out?

I realized that I would need a solution. First, I thought I'd just go and get a twin bed for my daughter and then the baby could move into the toddler bed, right? Simple. No, that wouldn't work. I measured the floor space and we'd have to lose a dresser, but I needed the dresser space. Besides, I would love to be able to lay next to my kids sometimes. OK, bunkbeds then. Nope, that wouldn't work either. I took the kids to the furniture store and almost had a hard attack. A four year old and two year old alone in a room with a bunk bed. Bad idea.

So what then? The search was on. Lots of furniture store visits, Craigslist hunting, online shopping, blog and message board reading, and Ikea browsing later I had a solution: The Ikea Kura. Yay!!! So cute! Target bedding and wall decals - voila! Cute little kid room. Yes, I realize it's only going to last me a few years until I need a bigger kid room, but that's OK. I love it and so do the kids.

I realize that there are creative people out there who have done cute things with the Kura, but we're happy with it just the way it is.

First, we got the super cheap yet super cute Target bedding:

Unfortunately, my almost two year old son wasn't excited enough about his big boy bed to give up the crib yet, so we had to stick one dresser in the closet and leave the crib in the room for a few more months until we convinced him to give up the crib and move to the bed.

Then we added the fun matching wall decals. I thought it may look junky, but now I couldn't imagine the room without them.

After getting rid of the crib and removing the glider (sniff, sniff) we had a lot more room.

We had enough floor space for a new reading nook. This bookrack was from Pottery Barn Kids. Love love love it. Takes up zero floor space, the kids can see all of their books, pick them out, and put them away.... and it looks great.

We also had enough floor space for a little play area. They had never really played in their room before. Only in the great room of our little townhouse. I thought about what each of them plays with most and how to create a combined area for them to play in. Dolls for my daughter and cars/trains for my son (I know, I know - sounds stereotypical, but it really is their preference, and my son loves to play dolls with his sister and my daughter loves to play cars/trains with her brother). So here is my big masterpiece just completed for the holidays:

Looks a little "busy"/crowded but it also looks like a little kid room - which is what it's supposed to be. I'm very proud of the doll house/garage area so I will be posting some detailed photos and step by step instructions on it next.