Monday, November 30, 2015

{Thanksgiving recap: Thankful for so much}

I had this post completely written, and I somehow deleted it! Grrr... Let's try this again. We had a great Thanksgiving holiday: 
Here we are at my Aunt Evita's house.
Ryan, the kids and I headed to Ohio to visit my family. I am not going to give you a minute-by-minute recap, but I want to share a little with you. Like normal, I didn't take as many pics as I would have liked. In fact, most of the pics I am going to share with you my Aunt Theresa took. I was too busy visiting with people :)

The drive there wasn't too bad. The kids were thrilled with the car bags Grandpa (Pam) put together for them:
Pure joy!
Checking out the goods
We stayed with my Aunt Theresa Berry and Uncle Bob. They were still up with my cousin Richie when we pulled in around 12:30 in the morning Thanksgiving morning. The kids slept a lot, so when Ryan and I were heading to bed around 3 am (I know...) the kids were ready to play. Yikes! Luckily they didn't take too long to fall asleep...again.

We had our first yummy Thanksgiving meal with Amma and Ampa (my dad and Andrea). The kids had a great time visiting, and I was even able to sneak in a nap :) Yay!
Pure happiness on those kiddos' faces
There were some hi-jinks. Daddy told Caden that the whipped cream smelled funny. Yes, he was eating a plateful of whipped cream, no pie. Of course that led to a face smashing into the plate :)
It was a very relaxing day for all :)

Our next Thanksgiving meal was on Friday. We spent most of the day with my mom's side of the family at my Aunt Evita and Uncle Gary's place in Michigan. The kids had a GREAT time. Caden was in heaven playing with three of his boy cousins (my cousin Nikki's sons Niko and Scotty and my cousin Jenni's son Christopher):
Caden and Christoper
Niko and Caden: I can't get over how handsome Caden looked :)
Lilli stuck by my side most of the time:
With my Aunt Theresa (the photographer)
With Grammy
Can you tell Lilli is starting to crash in this pic? :)
I should have taken a picture of my Aunt Evita's Christmas tree. It is so beautiful. Lilli always loves examining all of the ornaments. They are so delicate and dainty. 
Saturday morning Aunt Theresa Berry read the kids a Christmas story she wrote, and she showed them some of her Christmas decorations:
We packed everything up, and then we met Grammy, Aunt Ann, my cousin Andrea, and Andrea's husband Josh at Pizza Hut for lunch. The highlight for Caden was when our waitress noticed he was playing with Pokemon cards, and she offered to bring her 21 year old son's cards for him. He was thrilled. She will get those to Aunt Ann at a later time.

After a quick pit stop at Grammy's house, we had our third Thanksgiving meal in Perrysburg with my dad's side of the family. (Yes, we had three Thanksgiving meals.) We were happy that Amma and Ampa were able to join us as well. My Aunt Diane did a great job of fixing a great meal for a houseful of hungry people :) After we were done eating, we made a quick pit stop at Starbucks for some caffeine and then we hit the road!

It was a whirlwind trip, but we had a lot of fun. I hope everyone else had a great time as well :)

Lilli was so excited about Turkey Day, she closed off Sunday night making a paper turkey. She was very determined:

Until later!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

{Harry Potter birthday party}

I know it's a little delayed, but I finally was able to put together the pics from Caden's birthday party. I still, however, need to send out the thank yous... Oh well, one thing at a time :) Here is a recap of the party. Also, here is the link to my Harry Potter Birthday Party Pinterest  board. Enjoy!

I started with the invitation to Caden's party. We knew we wanted it to stay in line with Harry Potter, so I search online and found some sample cards. The card is fashioned to look like an acceptance letter to Hogwarts. I drafted two versions of the letter: one for the family and one for Caden's school friends.  We ran the family party from 11:30-1:00 and the family party from 1:00-3:00. Pretty much all of the family stayed even after the school friends arrived. We decided that Caden would ask his school friends to bring donations for the animal shelter instead of presents for Caden. We said that Hagrid asked for donations from the animal shelter, so it stayed with the Harry Potter theme. Here is what the kid invite looked like:
I didn't have a wax seal, but Caden really wanted them to look authentic. He took care of that himself with some markers. He drew the wax seal himself. He made it an "H" for Hogwarts:
I also made magic wands for all of the kiddos, so I needed to work on those. These were not hard to make at all, they were just a little time consuming because there is wait time for the hot glue to harden. I made 20 wands over the course of three days.

I followed the same steps I detailed here with the basic wand shape. This time I purchased wooden dowels and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store, and that saved a step for me :) This time I only made two different handle shapes.
After the hot glue dried (I waited until the next day), we painted the wands all brown:
Lilli and Caden helped with this. Because I used acrylic paint, it was very easy to wash off their hands. Here are some wands after their first coat. We ended up probably doing three coats:
After the wands were completely dry (I waited until the next day), I added another layer of hot glue for the handle. This time I used glow in the dark hot glue. I also put a dot of it on the tip of the wand. Those then needed to dry as well:
The last step was spraying them with a clear acrylic to waterproof them. I printed an Ollivander's tag to attach to each wand.

The next item we needed to make for the party was the Hogwarts robes for the kids. I am super lucky that my mother-in-law is a whizz on the sewing machine. I made a few robes, and then she finished them off for me. The tutorial for the robe came from Pieces by Polly. It was SUPER easy. You just had to mark off the sleeves like this:
Cut that section out. Sew it on the line. Then cut down the front center of the shirt and and finish the edges. I found a picture of the Gryffindor crest online, and I printed it onto iron-ons. Pam also added a ribbon to the front corners so they would stay shut. The original pattern called for buttons, but I didn't realize how expensive buttons are! The ribbon was much more cost effective :) Here is a pic with Lilli wearing hers:
The kids LOVED them :)

Food planning was a little bit of an first. I found a TON of Harry Potter food ideas, but most of them were desserts. After putting out a call for help on Facebook, I got a lot of other good ideas. Aunt Chris (Prust) also gave Caden an early birthday present:
How perfect was that? Can you see all of the pages I marked? I tried to keep it easy for the food. Caden LOVES Arby's roast beef, so I ordered some from there. All of the recipes in there were also tied to one of the Harry Potter books. Here was our menu:
Roast "Beast"
Cranberry sauce
Glazed Carrots
Mashed Parsnips
Hogsmeade Meatballs
Butter Beer (I made the recipe I wrote about here)

Everyone liked the food:
I missed listing some items, I know. I had help from the family with the food. Of course, we had cake as well. I will show you that in a bit.

The decorations were super simple. I really just found a bunch of free printables online. I placed them around the house. Here are some of them:

I added an owl above a pic in the living room: 
I also printed signs for each of the four houses of Hogwarts (I forgot to take a pic of the sign from Ravenclaw):
Basic crepe paper also goes a long way. I just went with Gryffindor colors:
I printed newspaper articles to put up from The Daily Prophet:
I printed off a Gryffindor bunting and glued it to tag board:
I placed owls around the living room:
See the scruffy one on the mantel?
My father-in-law made this awesome owl that we put in the basement:
I decided we needed some floating candles in the "dining hall." I collected paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Then I put hot glue on them to look like melted wax:
I then spray painted them white. I put a crunched up paper towel in the tube, and then I placed a little LED light in the top. We attached some fishing line, and Ryan then taped them to the ceiling. They looked awesome!
I also taped a couple pics to the windows. One of Dumbledore, of course :)
I printed some of the letters Harry received from Hogwarts, and I made it look like they were shooting out from our fireplace (just like in the book):
This pic is from the morning of his birthday :)
We had a few activities for the kiddos to do. Remember, Caden's friends didn't get to the party until 1, so we were done eating lunch. We had cake, cupcakes, and ice cream with the kids. We also put out a cheese and sausage tray.

When the kids came in the door, they received their robe, their magic wand, and they also got an owl. The owl was a white helium-filled balloon with an owl drawn on it. Grandpa and Lilli made these. They then got their picture taken with this awesome sign Aunt Lexie made:
Check out these excited kiddos running downstairs to play:
The first large group activity we did was learning some magic spells with our wands. I chose four spells and drew the wand motions on poster boards along with the words. The kids did a great job:
They had a great time practicing their spells:

And running like fools:
Yes, they even practiced in the tree fort :)
Once the kids successfully performed one spell for me, they received a little bag with gold coins and Hershey Golden nugget chocolate bars. I printed a Gringotts deposit slip to serve as the tag for them. I just stapled the deposit slip on each bag.

The next activity we did was searching for magical animals. Hagrid lost them, so the kiddos had to find them. I bought the tubes of plastic animals from Hobby Lobby (I used a 40% off coupon), and Aunt Lexie hid them around the yard. Each wizard or witch had to find two animals. They could then switch with others if they wanted:
Once they found their two animals, they showed them to me. I labeled a plastic bag with their name, put the animals in the bag, and then they got a bag of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans (I bought Jelly Belly jelly beans and portioned them out in snack-sized bags):
Lilli is holding her bag in the pic below:
The kids played some more:
And then it was time for cake!!! I made the cake to look like the one Hagrid made for Harry in the movie:
I also made Gryffindor-colored cupcakes:
It was a great day :) Totally worth all of the trouble for this little cutie:
I will be doing a follow-up post. We are on the way to Toledo as I am typing this up, and I realized I am missing a few of my pics. My father-in-law made an AWESOME Harry Potter-themed sign for out front, and I need you to see it. Also, I want to share a pic of the table loaded with the items for the animal shelter. We still need to drop those off at the animal shelter, and I know they will be thrilled with the gifts for the animals. 

Until later!