Luna’s First Birthday Party (On a Budget)

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Before having Luna, I swore I would not be one of those parents that goes stupidly nuts for a kid’s birthday parties. Don’t get me wrong, a love a good themed party, but I do not want to spend a silly amount of money on something she will never remember. Now, that I am a parent, and just planned the big first birthday party, I’ve got to be honest, it is hard not to go a little crazy. Planning an extravagant party is as fun as shopping for baby clothes and accessories, which is another problem I have. I am happy to say I managed to save A LOT of money and still have an amazing shindig for my baby girl.

The birthday girl wearing the outfit that her Aunt Zoey MADE her!
The birthday girl wearing the outfit that her Aunt Zoey MADE her!

I was slightly stressed out before the party. We had seven people staying at our house (not counting us), and lots of other people from out of town staying at other houses. The entire weekend was jam packed with plans and I did not know how I was going to get everything done for the party. I don’t know why I ever worried though… every person at our house pitched in, offered to help and basically did all the decorating for me without me ever even asking them to help. Our family and friends are the best and now I realize I couldn’t have gotten it all done if they had not all been staying at my house driving me nuts. Thanks guys.

birthday girl

Luna’s party was “Winter Onederland” themed. Of course, I got the idea from Pinterest. Where else? I wanted an inexpensive way to transform our house into a white glittery winter landscape and I figured out the perfect way to pull it off. Here’s what I did:

big eyes

1. I emailed everyone I live near and asked if I could have any [insert needed craft supplies] they no longer wanted. I figured everyone has random bits of construction paper, glitter, felt, ribbon, etc they want rid of and I was right.

2. I borrowed, borrowed, borrowed. I’d love to eventually own all white matching pretty serving trays and platters, but right now that’s just not possible. So, I borrowed them. I also borrowed lights and decorations. Luckily, several people decorate their house like winter wonderland for Christmas.

3. I shopped at Costco. We had brunchy type food (bagels, hummus, veggies, fruit, coffee, hot chocolate, biscotti, nuts and juice). It was easy to pick up almost all of this and disposable dishes in bulk at Costco.

4. I got crafty (and made all of our guests get crafty). We used all of those donated art supplies to create our own decorations. I just wish I had more pictures of the decor… We were so busy celebrating!

5. We had a relative make the cakes. Our Aunt Amy is an AMAZING baker. She made the most delicious tye dye cake for us and a healthy smashcake for Luna.

cakes

Clearly, Luna loved it... I did too!
Clearly, Luna loved it… I did too!
"Want a bite, Mommy?"
“Want a bite, Mommy?”

We ended up spending very little on the party. I may make all of Luna’s birthday parties winter themed…

The best part of the party planning was asking that no one brings gifts for Luna. We asked instead that our friends and family (who want to bring a gift), bring a toy to donate to the Renewal House (a residential recovery program for addicted women and their children) instead. We ended up with a nice collection of gifts for the Renewal House and are so excited to bring them their gifts! Luna is a lucky little girl, she needs nothing and we are so happy to give these toys to kids who really need them.

singing

Thank you all SO much for the many Birthday wishes and comments on the birthday blog and birthday video posted last week. Husband and I could not feel any luckier and our little girl couldn’t feel more loved.

our family

Oh, and if you’d like to make a donation to Renewal House, just click here!

ball pit

Cheers!

L’Shana Tova!

Happy Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year!

family

Yesterday evening was the beginning of Rosh Hashanah and today we celebrated with a big fancy pants lunch with friends and family. We have one friend of the family who keeps everyone in line when it comes to Jewish holidays. He organizes the dinners, serves the most beautiful meals, invites everyone and says at least one prayer in Hebrew. I may not be Jewish, but I do love holidays and learning about all religions so I make sure Husband and I never miss a party.

table

Luna is part Jewish so I think it’s important she learnt about her heritage and Jewish ancestors. I try to learn a bit more about the religion and the celebrations every year not only for my interest, but for her benefit. I guess I should start searching for some Rosh Hashanah children’s books.

momdaughter

Today’s New Year celebration started with wine, cheese, smoked salmon and pate. Everyone caught up with one another and took turns complaining about long services at the synagogue. Lunch was pretty traditional…apples, honey, challah, matzo ball soup, potatoes, brisket and lots of sweets. This year, I am not pregnant and therefore able to drink the wine (yay!), or so I thought. I may not be pregnant, but turns out that taking care of an 8 month old also keeps you from enjoying a glass of wine. I was able to enjoy my dessert with coffee though, and they may have been even better.

eyes

This whole week has been one weird week of birthday celebrations, fancy dinners, surgery, Jewish New Year and other random occasions. It feels a little like Christmas break, which is nice, but I’ll be ready to get back to routine next week. I’d love to share some funny anecdotes from today or reflect on the past year, but Luna is sleeping soundly, Husband is snoring next to me, Belle is snuggled in between the two of us and the cat is curled up into a sleepy fur ball. It’s time for me to join them, which sounds a lot like the end of last year’s post.

Luna's dress is from the Etsy shop, Aylinka. I'll be writing a review for you soon!
Luna’s dress is from the Etsy shop, Aylinka. I’ll be writing a review for you soon!

Cheers and L’Shana tova!

Down by the Bayou

While visiting friends and family in Texas last week we had a crawfish boil! Crawfish boils are crazy popular where I grew up. Most of us are at least part Cajun and either had or were invited to crawfish boils for basically every occasion in the spring. Easter, Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Graduation, Memorial weekend or any get together that consisted of 4 or more people usually involves crawfish, corn and potatoes this time of year. It’s glorious.

flower

 

Since, this is a southern and mostly Cajun tradition I miss it dearly every year. People in the north jus don’t get it. My parents understand the importance of good spicy food so they put together a boil the second they knew we were coming to visit. Lots of family came over and we managed to eat 120 pounds of crawfish.

crawfish

Every time we have a crawfish boil or barbecue my Dad’s side-by-side manages to make an appearance too. Almost everyone took a ride through the yard, around the neighborhood and down to the bayou. I let my 5-year-old cousin control the wheel while I controlled the gas. Luna even had her first ride around the yard.

sidebysode

 

peter

Speaking of my little cousin, Abby, she was so in love with Luna! She followed me around all day wanting to hold her, comfort her, carry her, change her and even breastfeed her! She was completely intrigued when I had to feed her and by the end of the day she was convinced she could to do it too. I told her she needed to be a Mommy first, but she insisted she “could just try it, just one time!”

abby

Of course it was also a day for lots of our family to meet Luna. She was a little overwhelmed with all the traveling, meeting new people, parties and rides, but everyone still loved her fussy butt.

dana aunt mimi joe hat

Anyone else have a special tradition or something they like to do when visiting family?

Cheers!

 

Hoppy Easter!

happy easter

We celebrated Easter today by having some family and friends over for brunch. My friends Sara is in town from Nebraska, staying with us and helped me cook and get everything ready for our guests. It was a potluck brunch with a crepe bar, a crazy amount of toppings, salmon, monkey bread, fruit salad, bagels, cookies, coffee and mimosas. It was sooooooo good, like so good I don’t even regret the extra 8,000 calories I consumed.

probably should have uncovered the foil-covered crepes for the photo...
probably should have uncovered the foil-covered crepes for the photo…

guests

 
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I really enjoy having people over and hosting parties. It’s the same feeling I got when planning a new theme  in my classroom. I get to plan out the menu, decorate, coordinate everything, send out invites and basically have everything under my control. (mwahahaha)

table

this idea from Pinterest was so easy and cute
this idea from Pinterest was so easy and cute

After the brunch half of us drove to one of the local parks for a 3 mile walk. Our weather has been unbelievable this weekend! It finally feels like spring and I am loving it! It was so sunny we actually had to use sunscreen. Okay, I didn’t actually use sunscreen, but other people did… same thing.

granny white dandelions

this dog LOVES chasing sticks...all sizes
this dog LOVES chasing sticks…all sizes

Then, because we are badasses we all worked out together. Of course, we mostly did this because our friend Bella is a machine, workouts more than anyone I know and looks like a superhero, so when she asks us to workout with her we always say yes. You don’t tell superhero’s no.

workout

Easter day ended with another phenomenal home cooked meal by Sara, a Disney movie, some hair-chalking (more on that soon!) and tummy time with my favorite girl!

So strong! I cannot get enough time with this precious baby.
So strong! I cannot get enough time with this precious baby.

Such a good day.

Cheers!

 

 

Baby Shower Numero Dos

This past weekend we had our second baby shower. This one was for all of our friends and family in Tennessee and it was held at my in-laws house. The shower was more of a party…it was at 7 on a Saturday night, it was for boys and girls, dinner was served and lots of fun was had. It was perfect.

34 weeks

My sis-in-law did most of the planning and she came up with the most clever idea for a shower/party/guest book activity. She took the book Goodnight Moon, tore out the pages, hung them up and gave everyone directions to choose a page and recreate it in their own style.

goodnight moon book guest book

Some of the finished and unfinished pages
Some of the finished and unfinished pages

Not only was the idea very cool, but I was so impressed by everyone’s artwork! They went all out to create a beautiful one-of-a-kind book for Luna. The book’s title, BTW, was changed to Goodnight LunaEveryone had to sign the front of their page too, so one day when I’m reading the book to Luna I can tell her who created each page special for her.

making pages james artwork steph's artwork

For dinner we had seafood soup, vegetarian chili, chicken noodle soup, homemade bread, guacamole and lots of other little snacks. Our Aunt Amy made us a delicious raspberry and lemon trifle and 3 trays of different types of chocolate chip cookies. My doctor is going to be in shock when I am weighed at my next appointment… after the holidays, 2 weeks of vacation and 2 baby showers I am afraid to step on a scale.

soups trifle

The best part of both of our showers is just getting to spend time with our friends and family and talk about how excited we all are about Luna’s arrival. I didn’t even open gifts until midnight. We are fortunate to receive so many nice gifts for our baby, but it means a lot more to know that so many people are going to love our Luna. (I’m allowed to be corny and sentimental…I’m pregnant!)

Everyone 30 and under
Everyone 30 and under

blurred

my hair my love

Thank you to all of our wonderful hosts and hostesses…it was a blast!

Cheers!

Adults Decorate Cookies Too

To continue our weekend of time with loved ones, we spent Sunday evening at our friends’ house for what will hopefully become an annual Christmas Cookie Party. These particular friends always throw the most beautiful and delicious parties. They seriously know how to host, decorate and prepare the most decadent foods… it’s the same house where we have our annual Second Thanksgiving/Just Dance party.

party

 

I am getting rather uncomfortable at 31 weeks pregnant. (Get out of my ribs Luna!) So, I dressed for comfort with a bit of festive flair. Husband, however, decided to outshine me and get all decked out for a night of eating and drinking with friends.

Woah! That's a big belly!
Woah! That’s a big belly!
Holiday Hair!
Holiday Hair!

Because our hosts wanted to make a “simple” dinner (hah!) we had 3 different soups, an entire table of snacks and hors d-oeuvres and another table lined with fancy Russian chocolates.

snacks table sweets chocolates

After we were beyond full we rolled ourselves into the kitchen to make and decorate some cookies. We actually used pre-made cookie dough, because who has time to make dough after preparing a huge dinner? Now, you may remember decorating cookies as a child, and if you really remember than you know they all turned out looking like broken blobs of cookie crumbs and mounds of icing. Well, I apparently never grew out of that stage….

chocolate chip knead star friends

This is the BEST cookie I made...
This is the BEST cookie I made…

Guys, I tried. I seriously tried to make this a cute cookie. It’s my best work. It’s also proof that I will never be that Mother that brings adorable baked goods to classes or parties. Sorry, kid, but you’re taking pre-made baked goods to school.

Whatever, ugly or not, the cookies tasted like cookies.

What are some of your holiday traditions? Do you party with friends? Celebrate with family? Make ugly cookies? Can’t wait to hear about it!

Cheers!

It’s Me Day!

The card Husband got me for my Bday... he knows me so well.
The card Husband got me for my Bday… he knows me so well.

Friday, I finally got to officially celebrate the most wonderful day of the year: my Birthday. Like any other holiday, I took the day off of work, slept in somewhat late and had the BEST day ever. My day actually began with a call from my bank informing me that my account information had been stolen and someone was using it to make lots of online purchases, and they would need to close my account immediately. The thief even had the nerve to make several online Sephora purchases, how rude! Not exactly the morning wake-up call I was hoping for, but at least there was nowhere to go but up after that little surprise.

First, Husband took me to breakfast at my favorite Nashville diner, the Pied Piper. This diner is a pretty basic family owned trendy place in East Nashville, but I love their breakfast, especially their biscuits and gravy. They are probably the only place is Nashville Tennessee the South who makes their biscuits and gravy vegetarian friendly and they are SO freakin’ delicious. Of course, when we got there I saw the sign that read “Biscuits and Gravy are only served on weekends and holidays”.

I tried my best to convince them that Friday is actually part of the weekend and that it is most definitely a holiday. I even gave them my sad “we had to drive an hour to get here!” story, but they insisted they had no biscuits. In the end, they made me toast and gravy, which turned out to be a very good substitute.

Soon after Birthday breakfast was a lunch time viewing of the Hunger Games: Catching Fire! Clearly, I have looked forward to this movei for a LONG time.

IMG_20131122_104256

Katniss or Hilarie? Who can tell?
Katniss or Hilarie? Who can tell?
I'm actually 12.
I’m actually 12.

Catching Fire was perfect. It was even better than the first one, and since it’s been a couple of years since I read the book I didn’t notice if any important details were left out. I did forget how serious and sad the series starts to get, and remembered that the 3rd and final book/movie is going to be extremely depressing. Still, I CANNOT wait until The Mockingjay comes out!

After, the movies was a special stop at Sephora, and then a final celebration at a local Mexican food joint. The best part of Birthdays with our family is always Birthday Dinner. We ate way too much salsa and guacamole and I got so many unexpected gifts.

Me and Husband at dinner
Me and Husband at dinner

ANNNDDDDDD I got the most wonderful present! LOTS of my family and friends pitched in to get me an awesome new camera! I got the Canon 70d and I am so in love.

I found the perfect subject on which to practice my skills...
I found the perfect subject on which to practice my skills…

The only thing that could have made this day better would be to have my out of town family and friend with me to celebrate.

BIG thanks to everyone for making my day so great!

Cheers and Happy Hilarie Day to each of you!

 

Mickey’s Halloween Party

Clearly, Husband and I are a little nutty and have been to Disney World more times than most people would ever want to go anywhere. We just can’t get enough. However, as many times as we have been, we have never attended Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party. So, when Husband decided we were going to Florida to celebrate his Birthday I made sure that the party was part of our plans.

halloween party the castle

During the Halloween party (and during all the Disney parties held at Magic Kingdom) the park closes early for the guest who did not purchase a special party ticket and opens (or stays open) for the guests attending the party. We were there from 7pm to midnight. About the time we arrived the sun went down and the park transformed into a not-too-spooky land fun of characters like Jack and Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas and incredible party decorations.

memories mickey wreath

99% of the people in attendance are dressed in costume, like incredible costumes. Most families dressed in theme… We saw Peter Pan with Tinkerbell, Wendy and Captian Hook. There was Buzz, Woody, Jessie, and Rex. One family had Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts and Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. The best part of the night may have been just people watching. Everyone was so darn adorable! We, on the other hand did not dress up… I know what you’re thinking, we are so the kind of people who typically go all out in these sorts of situations, but we were just so busy the weeks before, it just wasn’t in the cards. Don’t worry though, I have BIG plans for when our baby girl gets here.

us and the castle

I got to see my good friend Ruth from NYC!
I got to see my good friend Ruth from NYC!

The Halloween party is definitely set up for families with children. There are trick-or-treat stations set up around the park, dance parties with different characters go on all night and the villains even put on a special show throughout the night in front of the castle. These activities were not as fun for us non-costumed grown-ups, but there was plenty we LOVED.

back of castle

For one, the “Mickey’s Boo-to-You” parade is amazing! This is the best Disney parade I have ever seen, which basically makes it the best parade ever. Some of the characters are really creepy and come right up to you, some even touch your face as they whisper “Happy Halloween”, and the choreography is much better than a typical Disney parade.

parade headless horseman hitchhiking ghost

“HalloWishes” is the fireworks show shown during the night and it’s VERY good. Nothing is better than the original “Wishes”, but I do love the extra big production and the Halloween music in “HalloWishes”. We actually watched them from behind the castle, so we had a show of fireworks happening in a full circle around us.

hallowishes fireworks castle and fireworks

The Haunted Mansion was phenomenal! It was surrounded by spooky lights, tons of fog and there was even a “real” ghost outside the house telling jokes to keep all of us in line entertained.

haunted mansion ghost

Then, there’s the food. With a pumpkin spiced waffle sundae and a candy corn flavored dole whip, you just can’t go wrong.

waffle sundae

BTW, I'm fairly certain this is just vanilla soft serve with candy corn hidden in the cone...still good though.
BTW, I’m fairly certain this is just vanilla soft serve with candy corn hidden in the cone…still good though.

We had a blast. We actually got Disney exactly 2 hours before the party started so it was great to get spend the entire first night at Magic Kingdom. The lines were shorter than normal and it was fun to see Disney under a slightly spookier vibe. Next time, will be even better!

happy halloween

Cheers!

Prince or Princess?

Last night was the first night in over a month, I repeat: over a month, that Husband and I have had the house to ourselves. I do not even know how many people have stayed with us over the last month, but we are happy to be empty nesters for the time being. I’m sure we’ll be lonely in a week and begging our friends to come sleepover, but until then let’s all just take a moment to appreciate the quiet, clean empty house.

Moment over.

Sunday was our gender reveal party! We had 20 people over for Sunday brunch and a very special reveal (including my parents, who flew in from Texas for the big reveal).  I had so much fun getting my house ready for our little party… I took out our nice dishes, bought fresh flowers, unpacked the Halloween/Fall decorations, which has been in storage for years, and set up tables and chairs on our deck for extra seating.

Love the dining room table Husband and Dad-in-law made!
Love the dining room table Husband and Dad-in-law made!

breakfast table

(I painted this table!)
(I painted this table!)

We had so much delicious food made and brought for brunch. The weather was perfect and almost everyone wore pink or blue, like I told them they had to do. There were a couple non-conformists…shame shame. It was perfect and exactly what I wanted.

view into dining room the deck family table

After we stuffed our faces and called a few other family members on Skype (My sister wore pink even though she was all the way in Dallas), we finally got to cut into the cake that our awesome Aunt Amy made.

He or She?
He or She?

it's a girl

Best cake ever!
Best cake ever!

A girl! A girl! We are having a little Hilarie Jr. and we could not be more excited! Grant it, we’d be excited either way, but it’s so awesome to finally know what it is. I see lots of Disney princesses, glittery tutu’s and Gilmore Girls marathons in our future.

After the big reveal several of the people on the “blue team” revealed their own secret…they were all hiding some secret pink! Husband had on pink boxers, one friend had a pink ribbon in his pocket and another had a pink Disney princess in her pocket. Even my Mom-in-law (who wore purple) had pink buttons hidden in her pocket.

secret pink

Even big sister Belle was decked out in pink.
Even big sister Belle was decked out in pink.

Now, it’s time to make a big decision. What will this little girl’s name be? We are down to three top choices…I think we will make a final decision soon. Less than 20 weeks until we get to meet the little princess!

baby girl

Cheers!

I Threw a Bachelor Party

Hello there. I have an entire list of excuses for not writing (this seems to be a trend for this pregnant gal), but lets skip the excuses and go straight to the “I’m sorry!”.  I’ve been in a bit of a funk, but that’s for another post. Today is about waking up early, drinking a cup of coffee (yup that’s right, baby likes a little caffeine in the morning…so does Mommy) and writing. I’m getting back into the swing of things. I am. I am. I am. I am.

Over the weekend, Husband through a bachelor party for one of his very best friends. This particular best friend is a low-key, wedding in the backyard, live in a tent, relax and enjoy life kind of guy. He is not the typical bachelor and therefore would not want a typical bachelor party. Husband, being the awesome guy friend that he is decided a bachelor party-adventure was the way to go. His plan was to take a small group of guys on canoe trip that involved some sort of scavenger hunt expedition, BUT he did not want to do the planning.

Husband wasn’t being lazy, he just wanted to be able to participate in the festivities. So, the decision was made that Dad-in-law and I would be the masterminds behind the great day of boy’s fun. Here’s how it all began…

Husband found this video of the best bachelor party ever, watch it!

Doesn’t it look amazing? And, isn’t it so sweet how these men are all such good friends to each other? They went to great lengths to make sure their soon-to-be-married buddy had the time of his life. Did you get a little teary-eyed too? Or is it just my damn pregnancy hormones?

Anyways, we did not have as much time, resources or people as this video, but we used it as a baseline for our plans. Saturday morning here began with Husband, myself, and the fiance sneaking out of the house at 6:30am. (Did I mention they bachelor and his fiance are living with us this month?) The fiance and I left with a few others to head to the river. Husband met up with his other BFF’s to prepare for the bachelor’s arrival. At the house, we had an entire adventure set up just for the Bachelor… (Husband helped plan this part.)

His alarm goes off at 8am. He woke to an empty house and found a note that lead him to a hidden iPod. iPod began playing directions for how to get through the house with very specific rules to follow. One of my favorite directions was to climb on the roof where he found a bag containing his outfit for the day (a very small short tanktop with “bachelor” painted across the front, and a matching neon pink headband. After finding clues in our loft, garage and crawl space he ended in the woods behind our house where he found a bike and was told to ride it down our street. His friends were waiting for him in the car at this point. (If only someone was taking pictures!)

Meanwhile, Dad-in-law, myself, fiance, Grandpa and Uncle Michael drove to Duck River*. Our plan was to set 10 challenges along the river. We started by tying bright pink flagging to a branch hanging over the water to mark each challenge/clue.

first flag tying flag

map IMG_20130914_133248

When the boys spotted a flag they knew to pullover and look for a clue/directions. Near each flag (maybe in a crack, maybe in a branch, maybe in a bush) was an envelope holding the rules and often a large zip-loc containing supplies. After completing each challenge, another envelope would be opened to reveal the prize/punishment for winning/losing the challenge.

All the liquor I supplied for the games.
All the liquor I supplied for the games.

IMG_20130914_133401

canoes IMG_20130914_133113

Confused? Just imagine setting this up. I actually made all the clues until little rhyming riddles. I was so clever and funny…until about the 5th clue. By the end I was just writing do this and win this.

A few examples of our awesome games?

-Be the first boy to find and capture the flag at the top of a nearby tree. The winner of this challenge got to take the paddle from any opponent.

-Be the first to find “hidden treasure” 10 feet out into the water. The treasure was a bag with four mini-liquor bottles. The winner got to divvy them up.

-Build a popsicle motor boat (popsicle sticks, super glue and rubber bands were provided) with a team mate. The team with the slowest boat has to pull the winner’s boat.

Etc. Etc. They had to stack rocks, race, flip each other’s boats, play basketball, drink too many little bottles of liquor and basically act like themselves. We hid lunch at one of their flags, provided snacks and drinks and did everything we possibly could to make this party successful. I was so nervous that they would miss the flags or that someone else on the river would find our supplies, but everything worked out perfectly!

They took 6 hours to complete the expedition and when they arrived home the house was full of chips, dip, beer, moonshine, Monster energy drinks, pizza, video games and no girlfriends, wives, fiance’s or pets to bother them.

I stayed at my in-laws that night and got a call from Husband at 11pm. I answered by saying “Well, I’m surprised to hear from you!” After all, he was hosting his best friend’s bachelor party. I wasn’t exactly expecting a call. He told me he just really loved me and wanted to thank me for helping make the party so awesome. I couldn’t stop smiling. He then followed with….”I am very intoxicated.”

I think my first bachelor party planning was a success. Only 4 days until the beautiful wedding!

Oh, AND, we found a little something special while setting up the events…

box

Cheers!

*This was my first time on Duck River and we rented boats from a Higher PursuitsI am telling you this because they were by far the nicest, friendliest, most informative company we have ever rented from. They felt like friends and were able to help us in numerous ways. I loved them, if you ever plan on floating down Duck River, you should definitely rent your gear from the awesome people at Higher Pursuits.

They even have a nice dog named Sweetie!
They even have a nice dog named Sweetie!