Planning My Not-Pinterest-Worthy Party

easy favor

Me:  “I think my water broke”

He jumped up, almost throwing our 3 year old across our room, and said, “What?  Seriously?”

I was 35 weeks, carrying twins, so this should not have been entirely surprising.  But I believe going into labor early was also a bit of karma (since he had not yet packed his bag and we did not have a boy name selected).  It was sort of entertaining to watch him scramble around as I donned a beach towel sarong over my clothes (which reminds me, it really is a shame yoga pants only qualify as work pants when you’re pregnant) and headed for the minivan.

newborns

That was a year ago this week.  It is a momentous occasion.  My babies will be one year old, and are healthy and strong (and strong willed).  After 1 week in the NICU, 10 weeks of extreme sleep deprivation for mom and dad, another several months of regular sleep deprivation for mom and dad, approximately 3,500 feedings and 3,500 diaper changes (associated with approx. 1200 wrestling matches), and a combined ten sets of clothing sizes, we have made it.  I read a enjoyable editorial this week about being in the Sweet Spot and I realize that we are sitting squarely in one of the many sweet spots we will find.

twins now

So, I do want to celebrate this moment.  They are still little and I get snuggles and baby smells, but they are starting to be more independent.  They make each other giggle.  And they SLEEP!  I look forward to gathering some of the people who helped us through this logistically challenging year by cooking us meals, entertaining us, giving us some hand me downs, hosting playdates, and simply asking if/how they can help.  I hope people will have fun, the kids will play, and it will go smoothly.

I don’t want to plan an elaborate soiree that costs a zillion bucks and makes me go crazy.  And I don’t want my party to be anything that sets the bar too high for other parents who someday will be scouring Pinterest to plan a first birthday for their kid.  I loved this:

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apple picking theme via pisforparty blog

Here was another party that looked amazing:

picnic party

via All Things Heart and Home

Now is that not just about the most awesome, detail oriented, would-love-to-be-there looking party?!  Yes.  I absolutely would love to find an (almost free) party fairy that could just wave her wand and pull that exact setup together for me.

But I couldn’t find the fairy department on amazon.com.

It is important to me that it the food is ample and tasty, and that we get to enjoy the day with the guests … and I really want the kids to have fun.  It is not that important to me that the overall presentation is fancy.  For that simple reason, a 1st bday party planned by yours truly is not going to land on Pinterest anytime soon.  But I would love to see pictures of yours.

What it will have in common with the party above:

  • It is at the park with a generally picnic-y feel (I said a prayer for no rain.  Then I realized I better come up with some sort of entertainment we can do under the pavilion in case it does rain).  I even got two red checkered tablecloths (I will use for future block parties too).
  • It will have delicious cupcakes.  I don’t have the supplies necessary to make and transport that many cupcakes, so I found a nut free local bakery and ordered an assortment of Vanilla Vanilla, Chocolate Chocolate, Orange Zest Vanilla, and Lemon Vanilla.
  • It will have picnic-theme food (sorry, no budget for those adorable brown craft paper boxes).
  • Hopefully, it will be memorable and we will have good pictures of the event to share with family that is farther away, and also for the twins when they are older.

The similarities may end there.  I feel like I deserve bonus points for thinking ahead to book the 12 year old from down the street as a mother’s helper for the day of (someone to push the kids on the swings, make sure the bolder ones don’t run away on the way to the potty, etc.).  I used a quick Target trip as an opportunity to grab snacky things, some paper plates for the cupcakes, and some juice pouches (half real juice half water of course).

This is the elaborate staging area for my party
This is the elaborate staging area for my party

Adults will have food, drink, and a place to sit, and the kids will have food, drink, and a place to run around.  Check.

Now, onto the one thing I’m doing that is somewhat optional:   Favors.   I do want to give a little something to the kids who traveled from near and far to join us.  But … in my opinion, favors come with a tricky set of parameters.  Specifically, no total junk (a waste of $) and nothing the parents would be mad about (i.e. a pet goldfish).  Plus, I am trying to get away from food based (as food allergy mom, just a good concept).  And, I must be able to prep them ahead of time.  Too bad we don’t have Tori Spelling’s connections.

Again, you can definitely come up with lots of super cute, crafty, and time consuming ideas:

favorspinterest

via embellishmywedding

Do you see the little monogrammed tags and rolled up mini napkins?  Now that would be Pinterest worthy.  But what would the guests do with those tiny baskets when they got home?  Maybe use them to go on a tiny picnic?  Scratch that.

My Not Pinterest Worthy Favors

This might be just slightly less exciting than those …

easy favor

While not glam, big sis liked this idea.  She even helped me assemble them for the babies’ party.  Total cost of the supplies?  $4.04 per filled pencil pouch, consisting of:

Crossing off to-do list while disguising something as a “fun” rainy day project for your almost-5 year old?  Priceless.

It was easy, and I feel like parents may actually keep them, perhaps for travel, the car, or eating out.  They can even add new stickers or extra crayons as needed.  I probably could have done it for less $ if I’d gone to Walmart for the supplies, but I made the conscious decision to spend a few extra pennies on amazon.com instead of loading everyone up in the minivan to run an errand (in my opinion, avoiding that whole process is worth $10-$15).  Plus they only turn 1 once.

Now please send good thoughts our way for no rain, because I still have no really good ideas for what to do to entertain 12-15, families crammed under a park district pavilion.

Laura Sig

Are parties your thing?  Share a link to your awesome Pinterest worthy party below!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins Please

Hey Em,

So, I know you’re out there in sunny California, so you may not have heard … but here in the Midwest it’s Fall!  Let me just rub that in a little, before January rolls around and I can’t type this because it is too cold to feel my fingers.  Hope you have a lot to blog about that month …

Anyway, yes, here it’s time to start dreaming about fall colors and scarves …

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(I am way overdue for a trip to Hot Mama)

Crunching leaves in these …

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styled by Pink Peonies

And wishing this exact sweater would magically show up at about 80% off at Nordstrom Rack because we sure as heck cannot pay $238 for a sweater …

grey sweater

(if you have it in the budget, please, dig out those skinny jeans then immediately click here )

But anyway, back to my request.

Dear Em, in the spirit of Fall, can you please make these?

pumpkin cheesecake muffin

via Give Peas a Chance

I came across this recipe and pretty much think the only thing that might make it better is a chocolate swirl.  So if I had the energy, I would take the above recipe, divide the pumpkin batter in half, add roughly 1/2 cup of melted chocolate chips (I like these because they’re from a dedicated nut free facility), and then swirl the 3 delicious concoctions together.   It’s not that I don’t like to bake, but I know that:

  1. you actually LOVE to bake,
  2. you probably need some help getting in the Fall spirit with all those ocean breezes and avocados everywhere, and
  3. every aspiring chef needs lots of practice with pastries (I know this because on Top Chef they always fumble on the desserts).

So naturally, I thought this was an opportunity to do you a favor.

Anyway, please package 10 of them up and send them my way, so I can sit back and have one of those, with one of these:

cafe con leche

Thanks bunches.

Laura Sig

PS – Emily humored Laura and made these!  You can read about it here.

Working Lunch – Week 1

Last week week my coworker and I started the challenge of our “lunch share“.  

Day 1:

We started out the week with the now famous kale salad, of course.  We both enjoyed it.

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Then I knew I got to sit back for the next two days and let someone else worry about what was for lunch.  Frankly that’s the worst part about the cooking / shopping / eating routine for me … the decision making.

Day 2:

On Monday, before leaving for work, my coworker had put a whole chicken in her crock pot.  The plan was to use this for various things at home and for us throughout the week, starting with Tuesday’s lunch:

Lunch 1-2

As shown above, she just brought some simple pulled chicken, a few tomatoes from her garden, and some basil she walked over in the wee morning hours and stole from her neighbor (although before you call the police, I’m pretty sure they have a sort of mutual understanding).  She rounded it out with a few slices of Goat’s Milk Mozzerella from Whole Foods (um can you say gourmet?  Yes, I think I’ve created a monster).

Day 3:

For dinner Tuesday night, my coworker had repurposed the aforementioned chicken into a dish for us carbivores … namely a mushroom pasta with chicken.  She had caramelized some mushrooms (which you can easily ad-lib, or if you’re a stickler for following directions, here you go) and tossed it with some specialty mushroom pasta from her Farmers’ Market (this was a splurge – $8/lb) and some of the leftover pulled chicken.   Then she kept the leftovers from Tuesday night for our lunch on Wednesday.   This is definitely a super exciting use of the chicken.  Again, there she goes with more stolen basil.

lunch 1-3

Disclaimer:  GNP does not condone stealing herbs from neighbors.

Day 4:

Sorry, but you will forever be left wondering what could have been with the rest of the Chicken That Never Ends … because Thursday meant it was my turn again.  Uh oh.  At about 1 pm on Wednesday I realized that my lack of a real grocery trip this week might limit my options (seems to be a consistent theme at GNP, right Em?).  I have been to my Happy Place (aka Trader Joe’s) for a few appetizer type things and some half n half, but as is typical, didn’t really think ahead and get anything really “lunchy”.  Good thing I had an extra bunch of kale and a well stocked pantry.   And some random avocados.   Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Yes, an excuse to make The Only Other Kale Salad I Know.  This one was the very first kale salad I ever had, and I can’t take any credit for it.  The hiccup with this recipe is always the avocados.  I always have trouble finding them not too firm and not to soft.  It requires either very careful advance planning (maybe you’re capable of this), or sheer luck (my style).  In my willy-nilly produce buying, I have discovered that if you buy enough avocados, one of them is bound to be ripe at the right time.  Although, not necessarily great advice, because by the same token you probably will throw 1 or 3 of them out every now and then too Here is my masterpiece.

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P.S. In case you’re wondering, GNP did not steal any of the ingredients in the above salad.

All in all, a successful week.  I did a bit more work, but spent much less money, on lunches over the course of the week than I normally would have, and ate better food (homemade is hard to beat).  I clearly need to think ahead next week, but at least I am only on the hook twice.  My coworker is obviously better than I am at creating leftovers, repurposing leftovers, and remembering to grocery shop (oops).  Honestly, this was a fairly typical week for me in that I did a few little one-off trips (including my random Farmers Market trip), instead of a single respectable (cohesive mix of vegetables-meat-dairy-bread type) trip.  One minor disappointment is that with my Trader Joe’s trip, I actually paid for some grape tomatoes, when I think her neighbor may have had some in her garden … stolen tomatoes would have definitely tasted better.

Happy lunching,

courtyardlunch1

Laura Sig