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If you were a child in the 1980’s your birthday party might look something like this: friends, cake, ice cream and the backyard. Or, if you were really lucky, you got a party at McDonald’s.

mcdonald's party

If you are a child in the 2000’s your birthday party might look something like this: A high society ball.

We do birthdays a little different. Instead of spending several hundred dollars on a single party, we take our kids on a family vacation. Instead of entertaining them with a 4-hour party we spend the week visiting museums, aquariums, swimming, hiking and making lifelong memories. But my kids do have a specific formula for a birthday: play time, cake, presents and goody bags. In that order.

This year we did not go away because we are saving for a bigger trip next year. But, to satisfy my kids’ birthday requirements, I had a cozy play-date with cupcakes with an under the sea theme. We had a total of 10 kids and 8 adults the day of our party (down from 15 kids and 12 adults). Sadly, six kids cancelled due to ear infections and colds. A common hazard for winter parties: sick kids and snow days.

Our total budget for the party including food, cake, new birthday outfits and presents was just around $170. Here’s what it looked like:

Twin tanks with subtle embellishments.

I made these adorable shirts by simply ironing on little octopus embellishments to a tank top we already own. Paired with a 5-layer tutu and leggings, we have a complete ensemble for $15.00 each kid. Total for outfits = $30.00

After a little search on Pintrest I found I can make seaweed out of crepe paper. What? It was really easy! Just tape and twist two different colors of crepe paper together- done! I used less than 2 rolls for all our decorating. I used colorful paper plates as coral, and cut out fish shapes from glittery scrapbook paper.

Next I hung a fishnet that I found for only $3.00 at the local party store. I added seashells, pictures of my kids and little fish embellishments I found at the dollar store.

Bday celebration 2014 003

Jelly fish/sea creatures.

I took a little help from the party store and purchased pre-made tissue paper pom-poms. (I have attempted to make on my own and they do not look the same). I used crepe paper to look like tentacles. I hung these throughout the play room to look like sea creatures under the sea.

Total for decorations = $23.00

For activities we had a pinata (at my daughters’ request), an under the sea mystery box filled with shells we collected at our last beach outing, and the toys in our play room (totally free by the way).

I left the goody bags empty so the kids could fill them with the loot from the treasure chest. Instead of filling up the box with bags and candy, we chose fake jeweled rings, compass rings, under the sea creatures, necklaces and (chocolate) gold coins. It’s more like pirate booty and less sugar for the kids.

2014 birthday age 4 016

Making our loot bags was super easy thanks to Michael’s. I simply picked up a pack of plain white paper bags for $5.00 and attached some beach themed scrap book stickers. These adorable 3-D sea shell stickers were on clearance. I tied a pretty ocean blue ribbon on the top and done!

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The mystery box contained sea shells and beach rocks we collected during our visit to the beach. We added  “sea urchins” (little spiky rubber balls) and a few plastic sea creatures. Believe it or not, we already had those items on hand. The only cost for this is the wrapping paper ($1.00 at Target).

Under the sea mystery box.

I even made a space for an under the sea photo op!

2014 birthday age 4 014

Total for activities = $45

I went really simple with the food: cheese cubes and grapes on skewers to look like coral, fish shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, homemade shells and cheese, fish and chips (Goldfish crackers and potato chips) seaweed salad and sausage and peppers (I couldn’t find a clever name for that).  Drinks for kids were juice boxes and for parents beer, wine and seltzer. Easy! Total food & beverages = $60.00

Our total for gifts = $10.00. I know you’re thinking, “What kind of cheapskate parents spend only $10 on birthday presents?” We bought only a handful of small gifts for the kids to open at the party. Their big gift from mommy and daddy was a ride on the polar express. (Purchased months in advance- not part of the party budget).

Since the girls’ birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas we often ask guests to bring a canned good for us to take to the food pantry. This year we collected gently-used coats and warm winter clothes for children in our local foster homes. I was completely taken aback by everyone’s generosity! I hope this is one birthday tradition my kids will continue throughout life- giving back on their birthday.

2014 birthday age 4 025

 

 

After the party dust settled, the girls and I recycled some of the party decorations into thank you cards for our guests. I gave the kids some dot paints and paper, then we embellished them with the little decorations from our fish net.

Bday celebration 2014 004

 

The party was relaxed, the kids had fun and the moms even got a chance to sit down with a glass of wine and finish a few sentences. We didn’t break the bank for the kids to celebrate and get together with friends. I’d say that’s a formula for a successful party!

 

 

Wishing all my readers a very healthy and happy Thanksgiving! Safe travels and may your stuffing be perfect!

The girls have the entire Thanksgiving week off from school. We have been busy decorating, baking and making the house a giant mess. I am actually thankful for the toys scattered about the house. It means  I have two amazingly creative kids who get lost in their imaginations. It’s not fun cleaning it all up again, but one day those little messes won’t be there to organize. Before I know it both my kids will be off to college and ready to start life on their own. Every now and then it hits me that having twins means they both leave at the same time. Such a scary thought. Until then I’ll try to remain thankful for the messes, the chaos and the perfectly imperfect days we share.

Here’s a round up of our week:

We started off by making a Thankful Tree. I used brown craft paper for our tree, but you can easily use a brown paper grocery bag. I traced and cut out leaves to write our thankful things on. Then we it all taped to the wall. The girls decided to pick out pictures of things they are thankful for. We pulled out some family pics I had taken through out the year, but you can easily use pictures cut from a magazine. Both of the girls kept calling it the Giving Tree. That would be a great story to read along with this project if you have it! If not you can get animated versions on Youtube. I found a copy of the original 1973 movie version narrated by Shell Silverstein!

Our thankful tree!

I rolled out brown craft paper the entire length of the table so the girls could create their own pictures. We traced our hands to look like turkeys. The girls enjoyed making mama turkeys and baby turkeys. Again, you can easily recycle brown grocery bags for this project. Let the kids get creative!

DIY turkey table runner

I made these counting turkeys a few weeks ago which the girls really enjoy using. I just used materials we have on hand. Yes, I always have clothes pins and googly eyes on hand! Find instructions HERE.

Clothespins are great for working developing fine motor skills.

Thanksgiving Eve packets!! I set these activities out the night before to surprise the girls with in the morning. This will keep us busy for a while! If you are following The Whatever Mom on Facebook you already know where to find these turkey printables!

Our turkey table

We had our first winter storm yesterday. The snowy morning really put me in the mood for some good, warm comfort food. I made us some coconut, carrot french toast. It is inspired by the french toast I am in love with at one of my favorite restaurants (Love Bites). Not as good as theirs, but still a good way for me to sneak in some veggies and protein!

Coconut, carrot french toast.

 

4 slices of favorite bread

2 eggs

1 small carrot (finely grated)

3 Tablespoons coconut flakes

1/3 cup milk (any kind)

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla

1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon

2 Tablespoons butter

Melt butter in skillet on medium heat. Whisk the eggs and milk together. Then add in rest of ingredients and whisk until combined. Dip bread into mixture and be sure to cover both sides. Place in heated pan. Cook both sides until golden brown.

We didn’t have maple syrup so I sprinkled with powdered sugar. A snow breakfast for a snowy day!

 

Whatever you do today enjoy your time with family and friends. If you plan to celebrate the day alone, I hope you still have plenty to be thankful for!

 

Thank you for reading and sharing!!

lead pic

October is here! We can officially get excited about pumpkins and Halloween! I LOVE decorating for Fall!!! (Can never have too many exclamation points when sharing my excitement for Fall!!!). Gone are the days I can display my intricately designed, hand crafted grown up tablescapes. The delicate ensembles of thin glass hurricane lamps and the hand carved gourd tea light holders could never hold their own against the power of two Tasmanian toddlers. So, I put away anything glass, all my large ceramic pumpkins and delicate wreaths (you know all the stuff you don’t want kids touching!) for now and found some more kid friendly materials to decorate with.

Make a Monster Impression:

front door edit

This is simple, inexpensive and the kids can help! You can find everything in your dollar store.

supplies

Materials:

  • Large poster board
  • Large round paper plates (any solid color)
  • Small round, black paper plates
  • Small square paper plates (white)
  • Painters tape

Cut poster board in half. Then cut small triangles out of one side of paper to form a hair line. Depending on your door width you may need one, or both pieces of poster board.

Cut poster board in half and cut triangles for hairline.

Cut poster board in half and cut triangles for hairline.

Next, make eyes by taping the small black plate to the large paper plate and attach to the door.

Last, make a toothy grin using the square white paper plates.

Feel free to embellish with glittery bats, or other Halloween shapes. We decided to go with a girl monster this year and gave “Henrietta” some sparkly bat barrettes. My girls enjoyed posing with their monster afterward for our annual Fall pic!

 

Acorn Jewels:

Finished jewels. Display among other gems, or alone in a basket, on a tray.

Finished jewels. Display among other gems, or alone in a basket, on a tray.

One of our favorite things to do in the Fall is to collect acorns that fall off the Oak trees in our back yard. This year I found a fun project that is easy and super cheap.  We saved all our acorn caps in a cup and I pulled them out on a rainy day we needed something to do.

Materials:

  • Acorn tops (must be dry, clean and free from cracks)
  • Markers
  • Elmer’s Glue
  • Gems, or stones
  • Tray

Start with a layer of rocks, or gems on your tray. These will secure acorn tops in place.

Next, color the inside of the tops with a marker. It will look rough, but that’s ok!

Color in the acorn caps with favorite color markers.

Color in the acorn caps with favorite color markers.

Then pour Elmer’s school glue into each top and fill to the rim. Leave over night to dry and you won’t believe the effect!

Simply fill with Elmer's school glue and allow to dry over night.

Simply fill with Elmer’s school glue and allow to dry over night.

Have the kids check back to watch the colorful transformation.

The glue starts to soak up the colors and eventually turn clear; leaving behind a shiny coating of color.

The glue starts to soak up the colors and eventually turn clear; leaving behind a shiny coating of color.

What you have left are smooth, colorful jewels! I leave these in a basket of decorative pumpkins for easy access for the kids to play with.

 

Pumpkins, Pumpkins and more Pumpkins!

You simply cannot have enough pumpkins this time of year! We eat them, drink them and decorate with them! We have baskets filled with little decorative pumpkins, we color pumpkins, paint pumpkins and even carve our pumpkins.

pumpkins

Materials:

  • Pumpkins
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paint brushes -OR-
  • Carving tools

Our carving tradition is spearheaded by my hubby. He helps the girls select just the right family of pumpkins. Then they pour over different pumpkin design ideas before making the first cut. My girls are not squeamish at all about digging right in and squishing the pumpkin guts through their fingers.

Hubby manning the gore!

Hubby manning the gore!

Here are last year’s creations:

jack o lanterns

Confession: we made a trip to a pumpkin farm for the whole experience of seeing a real pumpkin patch, but I purchased our carving pumpkins for $2.88 each at Aldi’s. Whatever my kids have no idea…and by not spending $20 for one pumpkin (our above grand total for our cute monster, colorful acorn jewels and 3 carving pumpkins is $14.68) I purchased a few extra pumpkin lattes, pumpkin fritters, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin flavored pumpkins. Did I mention we like pumpkin?

For little ones not yet trustworthy with knives, give them a paint brush and some paints and let them paint their pumpkins!

All these crafts are fun for kids, easy to make and indestructible! Happy Fall Ya’ll!

What would your toddler think of a front door monster?

 

 

I really love the 4th of July! Next to Christmas, it is one of my favorite holidays.  I know Christmas is pretty awesome, but I really feel like the 4th is a spectacular holiday without all the pressure and stress of finding the right gift. And there are no hard and fast rules on how to celebrate. For me it has always been the perfect kickoff to summer.  Whether we are at the beach, in our hometown or traveling home to see family the formula for the day is the same. Eat, laugh and watch fireworks. It doesn’t get any simpler than that!

Here is a fun little recap of how the girls and I are preparing for our holiday of red, white and blue!

We made a sparkly art project using cookie cutters, paint, glitter, glue and construction paper. All items I already have at home. Ok, I had to go out and buy the construction paper because I was out. So really I spent a whole buck on this project!

Final Product

Final Product

JULY 4TH ART

  • Red, white and blue construction paper
  • Washable paints (we chose red, white, blue and yellow)
  • Star-shaped cookie cutters
  • Glue
  • Any color glitter
  • Paper plates
  • Plastic forks

Squeeze some paint onto paper plate and allow kids to dip the cookie cutters in. Then help them stamp onto construction paper. We used red, white and blue for the stars. For fireworks we dipped a plastic fork into yellow paint and stamped on the page, and we used glue and glitter.  Nice effect either way!

Angle fork prints to make fire works effect

Angle fork prints to make fire works effect

Glitter makes everything better

Glitter makes everything better

These are so cute! I think these will make really fun cards for some of our friends!

 

Hand prints are a cute stand in for the stars on our flag craft

Hand prints are a cute stand in for the stars on our flag craft

“STARS” AND STRIPES

  • 2 pieces of white construction paper
  • 1 piece of red construction paper
  • Blue paint
  • Paint brush
  • Glue
  • Marker
  • Scissors

Start by painting your child’s hand and placing print in upper left hand section of the white paper.  (Be sure to give them an extra piece of paper to continue stamping hand prints). Next, place stripes on page and have child help you glue one at a time. The top most stripes will be longer than the page as it borders the hand print. You can cut off the excess before or after you glue it. Tip: Before you bring the kids to the table for this craft have all the red stripes already cut. This saves wiggly kids from having to wait. Also, have plenty of baby wipes, or paper towels on hand! Makes 2 flag crafts.

 

No summer holiday is complete without icy cold treats! Anyone else remember eating bomb pops as a kid; those red, white and blue striped frozen treats on a stick? We made ours with berry purees and coconut milk.

Layer berry puree with coconut milk, almond milk or vanilla yogurt for a holiday look.

Layer berry puree with coconut milk, almond milk or vanilla yogurt for a holiday look.

BERRY “BOMB POPS”

  • Frozen ice pop tray
  • 1 cup of strawberries, washed and hulled
  • ¼ cup of coconut milk
  • 1 cup of blueberries, washed
  • 3 TBS grape juice

Puree strawberries and pour small amount into molds. Freeze. This is your first layer.

Pour small amount of coconut milk into each section, but do not fill. Place in freezer. You want the milk to be firm, but not frozen. This is your second layer.

Last, puree blueberries with grape juice for a more intense blue color (really a dark purple). Fill remaining space in your pop mold and place the sticks inside. This is your final layer. Place in freezer and allow to freeze until solid. Tip: Use a funnel to get perfect fill lines and for less mess!

All we have left to do is put out the flag and fire up the grill! Ok, maybe a few more frozen treats and one more cute craft.

 

What are some of your July 4th/Summer faves?

Final product

Final product

It was such a gorgeous day today, the girls and I spent most of it outside. We played with the water table, ran around flying kites, kicked a ball and even enjoyed our lunch outside. Then someone said, “Let’s make a craft.” I didn’t feel like making a huge mess with paint and no one was biting the line for crayons and coloring books. Quickly, I remembered I have this fun book I picked up from a retired teacher selling her 20 year collection of classroom books! I scored 2 big boxes of pristine kids books for $8.00!

There were a few different crafting books in the collection and I nearly forgot about this one. But, my girls pulled it out recently and asked to make a craft. I guess I couldn’t put it off any longer.

 

Original print date 1979

Original print date 1978

I love that it felt like I was opening a time capsule from the 1970’s when I opened this “How-to” book!

 

Easy to follow pictures in a book is easier for little ones to see and read.

Easy to follow pictures in a book is easier for little ones to see and read.

You can certainly find instructions on how to make pinwheels on Pintrest. But I love that the instructions are in pictures and simply laid out in this book. It is a much easier way for little ones to follow without the annoyance of scrolling and dropping WiFi signals. Plus, there’s a lot less pressure for perfection. (For me).

Here are the materials you need:

Materials for pinwheels

Materials for pinwheels

  • Scrap book paper (double sided has a great effect).
  • Scissors
  • Wooden dowels (I used wooden skewers).
  • A pencil
  • Thumb tacks
  • A ruler
  • A 1-2 inch circle to trace

 

Snag your kids toys for projects

Snag your kids toys for projects

STEP 1: Measure an 8×8 square on paper. (I cheated and traced the instruction book to create my square page).

STEP 2: Cut out square.

STEP 3: Fold your square corner to corner and crease. Unfold and refold to opposite corners and crease.

STEP 4: Draw a circle in the center point. (I found this easier to do after I made the creases).

STEP 5: Cut along the fold lines and stop at the circle.

STEP 6: Lift every other corner of each triangle and pull to the center circle.

STEP 7: Push a thumb tack through the center of paper and then through the wooden dowel (or skewer).

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

The pinwheels really turned out better than I expected (since I didn’t use any actual tools to measure).

We did this just for fun, but it would make a brilliant party decoration! I inserted the stems of the finished pinwheels into colorful drinking mason jars. I removed the straws and pushed in the skewers. The points on the skewers makes it easy to poke into potted plants around a deck, or push into the ground to line a walk way. You can even fill up buckets with fun treats with a pinwheel poking out. Or just make it a fun way to pass the time on a sunny day!

 

What’s your on-the-fly/go-to craft? Feel free to share pictures or comments below!

 

Disclaimer: Clearly in 1978 kids were allowed to play with thumb tacks. Most likely while sliding down a hot aluminum slide over top of loose gravel. If you make this craft, please be sure you take precautions for little ones who still like to explore by putting things in their mouth.

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