20 Questions at 5

For the 3rd year, I've asked Dylan the same 20 questions at his birthday. It's fun to look back and see which answers stay the same and which answers change.

I plan to put them all into a single book for him later and started with last year's layout to keep the pages similar, but let them each have their own unique look.

Supplies: Daydream papers and Birthday Bash kit by Karen Funk. Questions list from Reaves, Party of Four: 20 Questions


Pirate Birthday Party

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Over the weekend we celebrated Dylan's 5th birthday with a pirate themed party. We had debated a couple of different themes throughout the year, but after my cousin's wife shipped us a box of leftover pirate birthday goodies - we made our decision and started planning.

I ordered Pirate Ship invitations from Tiny Prints and then created my own return address labels & "no gifts" cards in Photoshop. [Our playgroup alone now has 12 kids with birthdays covering 10 months of the year and we all agreed that our kids have enough 'stuff.' We'd rather get together to celebrate and spend time - no need for more gifts.]

After the invites went out, we began prepping for pirate fun! Part of the simplicity of this theme - I dug out some of our Halloween decorations a bit early and mixed in a few other items like Dylan's Pirate Mickey Ears from Walt Disney World and a new pirate flag I made.

Our guests were greeted by a 'warning' sign at the mailbox: Beware of Pirates. It was an easy DIY project I created using items we already had.

We had planned a few outdoor activities and we were thrilled the morning was overcast and cool (70 degrees in NC in mid-July?? We'll take it!). We set up a simple walk the plank using a 2x4 and 'water' made from a dollar store tablecloth. The inflatable crocodile was a purchase from 5 Below and the kids loved it. Poor croc was drug into the top of the playset on the opposite side of the yard and tossed overboard! They also played a hook toss game (idea and free printable from Fleece Fun) as well as made cork pirate ships to float in a small pond.

We had purchased some plastic gold doubloons to hide in the sandbox for a treasure hunt, but a major rain storm on Tuesday left the sandbox a wet mess so I decided to toss that idea. Really, with the couple of activities plus the playset, toys inside and each other, the kids ages 5 and under were well entertained for the 2 hour party.

Of course, we had snacks - pirate themed snacks. Our menu: Shipwreck Sandwiches (Chick-fil-a chicken minis), 'Berried' Treasure (Chick-fil-a fruit tray), Pirate's Booty, Salty Bones (pretzel sticks), Krispy Buccaneers (Rice Krispie Treats), Jolly Roger cupcakes, Pirate's Punch (lemonade), and Shark's Blood (cherry Kool-Aid). I made the food labels in Photoshop the night before. Literally a last minute, quick project.

The cupcakes I made this year. I love doing mini cupcakes for the kids. Perfect size. Dylan's current favorite colors are blue and orange. When I spotted blue velvet cake mix in the grocery store, I knew it would be a winner with him. I finished them off with white vanilla icing, red sprinkles and a few pirate cupcake flags.

As the kids left, they each picked up a goodie bag with their name on it. I used simple sandwich bags again (love this inexpensive idea - see how I used them for his Cars and Blast Off parties) and created a map design based on this pin on Pinterest. I created mine in Photoshop and ran the bags through our inkjet printer. After filling with goodies, I folded over the top and sealed with washi tape.

Our pirate birthday party was a lot of fun! After everyone left and we tidied up a bit, all 3 of us took it easy the rest of the day. Oh, and Dylan informed me that next year he wants a superheroes party. Already has a plan for year 6. Pause please - let's enjoy age 5!

Source: '5' Shirt - shirt from Michaels, striped fabric from JoAnn Fabrics, black fabric from the Scrap Exchange; Invitations - Tiny Prints; No Gifts Cards - boy pirate image from free Pirate Playdough Mat printable; Pirate Flag - made; Skulls - from our Halloween decorations; Walk the Plank - wood from stash, blue tablecloth from Dollar Tree, inflatable crocodile from 5 Below; Message in a Bottle - small bottle & cork purchased from the Scrap Exchange; Hook Toss Game - Pirate Hooks from Amazon, Printable from Fleece Fun, Rope from Lowes; Plates, paper cups & striped straws - Target; Goodie Bags - pirate ship clip art from ClipArtBest.com.


First Day of Kindergarten

Dylan won't be 5 for a few more days, but he officially started kindergarten last week! We have year round elementary schools here and were excited to be assigned to one. This means he gets a break every 9 weeks plus holidays and has one week off between school years.

Being the scrapbook/photo book/photography loving mom I am, I knew I wanted to do cute first day photos. I liked the idea of a chalkboard sign and recalled seeing a kit from Hallmark's Pics 'n' Props line last year perfect for school photos. Of course, I'd forgotten to buy it. I asked on a Hallmark Facebook group I'm a part of if the kit even still existed. Yes and no. It's been discontinued, but can still be purchased if a store has it in stock. Imagine my surprise to find a package on my doorstep last week with the kit and a handwritten note inside!

While we took photos on his first day last Monday, it was also his only day last week as our school system has "staggered entry" for kindergarteners. He eagerly posed again for photos this week as he began his first full week and was excited to do so with the new sign from the Pics 'n' Props kit. Big grins before heading to the bus stop for his first bus ride to school (another exciting milestone - he's been asking us to please let him ride the bus).

Thanks, Hallmark, for the gift! We were all surprised and appreciative. Between Dylan and his sister due to arrive in October, we'll be using this kit for first day of school photos for many years to come.

Disclosure: The Pics 'n' Props: My First Day of School Kit was sent to me free from Hallmark, but no post requirements or other compensation were made. All opinions are my own.


Project Kitchen: New Counters

It's taken about 5 months of planning, searching, selecting and, finally, our new granite counters were installed last week.

New Granite Counters - After

The day of installation, we made sure all the counters and lower cabinets were clear and the drawers removed. The sink and dishwasher were disconnected the day before (hence the cardboard lid over the sink - our visual reminder to not dump anything in there).

New Granite Counters - Installation Day

Removal of the existing laminate counters and installation of the new granite counters & undermount sink took only a few hours. I missed seeing it all, but the boys were there and Dylan gave me plenty of sound effects as he excitedly retold what happened. Apparently a good bit of power tools were involved. What little boy doesn't love power tools?

We had to leave them alone (i.e., nothing could be put back on top) until the next day to allow the adhesive to set up. This also meant the plumbing wasn't reconnected until then. I did plenty of staring after. It was such a drastic change. I never liked the blue laminate and, brace yourself, the new color name is "azul platino" and is from Spain. Yes, "azul" means "blue" in Spanish so you'd think I would have run from such a color, but really it's a gorgeous gray blend with little flecks within. Add this color change and the shine of the granite - the room reflects so much more light and feels brighter. Also it coordinates nicely with our new stainless steel appliances (still waiting to replace the microwave & range) and helps tie it all together.

New Granite Counters - Azul Platino

We lucked out when ordering our counters that the current special was a free edge upgrade. Any edge option was available at no additional charge. We opted for the "double radius" and are pleased with the choice. It's a nice smooth finish. I'm thinking probably extra good with little ones in the house. No sharp corners anywhere.

Granite Counters - Double Radius Edge

Projects to still tackle - tiling of the backsplash, replacement of the island and painting the cabinets. I plan to do the backsplash myself and have to pick a tile. I have a couple of ideas and will hopefully find time to tackle it before my belly gets much bigger! In the meantime, I'm happy to live with the exposed gyp board around the room that was previously covered by the backsplash on the laminate. I didn't want to pay for a granite backsplash that I knew we'd eventually tear out.

The island will wait a bit. The size of the current one and fact it was installed crooked (something that drives me batty) are why we didn't replace the counter on it too. We're looking for options that aren't as deep (right now if you open either the dishwasher or refrigerator, you completely block access to that side) but a tad longer. Thinking we'll do a butcher block top. The other catch is when we do this, we'll have to replace the floor too as the sheet vinyl installed just before we bought the house is, of course, cut around the island. Changing the size, placement of the island will leave an exposed area.

A quick look back & comparison of the before taken last Tuesday morning and an after shot I took yesterday.

Next step - pick the backsplash tile.


July 4th 2013 - the layout

A little look back on our celebration last year. Time certainly flies by! We had great time getting together with friends for swimming, movie watching & good food before ending our night just the 3 of us watching fireworks not far from home.

Wishing you a very happy July 4th!

Supplies: Dude, Kraft Fun Day, and Holly Jolly kits by Robyn Meierotto; Little Buckaroo kit by Miss Mint; Lazy Days kit by Kate Teague; Playful freebie by Mommyish.


Baseball Birthday

Trent's birthday was in early June. Sticking with our tradition of giving memories versus physical gifts, I made baseball themed card for him and enclosed tickets for the 3 of us to see the Durham Bulls & Norfok Tide play on the following Saturday night.

Our seats for the game were directly behind home plate and the weather was absolutely perfect.

Dylan and I took a break mid-game to walk around the stadium and caught a glimpse of the gorgeous sunset. Amazingly, even after a long day in preschool and game start time of 7:05pm, he made it through the entire game. We headed out just as the 9th inning was starting and it was clear the Bulls were going to take home the win.

Supplies: cardstock; Studio G stamp; Stampin' Up ink. Scraplift of Make A Wish Birthday Card for Boys by RCreativeCreations.


Rhino Shield Impact Resistant Screen Protector

It's that time again - time to renew our cell phone contracts and upgrade our phones. We had debated waiting a bit, but decided to take advantage of current offers and upgrade from the iPhone 4s to the 5s. That meant it was time for a new round of phone cases and screen protectors too.

We've always had screen protectors and I certainly didn't want to pass on one for our latest investment especially with one young child in the house and another on the way. Kids can be crazy rough on electronics even if they don't mean to be. And, then, of course are the times like when my last phone fell out of my pocket and hit the ground. Not a good thing, but always a bigger sigh of relief when you know you have protected your screen.

I was grateful for the opportunity to try an impact resistant screen protector from Rhino Shield and received the small yellow envelope pictured above. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside is the protector along with everything you need for quick & easy installation.

And the Rhino Shield was so easy to install! I've installed (and sometimes paid & watched installation of) screen protectors in the past and this was by far the easiest. No sprays or wetting. Just clean the phone screen, peel the backing from the protector, stick and smooth out. No waiting. You can immediately use your phone and, in my case, I immediately put the case back on.

I've been using the Rhino Shield for about a month now. It has firmly stayed in place. There are no scratches that I can see. It has gotten a bit smudged up on occasion. I've had a similar issue with past screen protectors and fully blame my make-up (but I'd rather battle the smudges that go without that!). The Rhino Shield also feels more like the original iPhone screen to me than other protectors I've used. A nice smooth finish.

Overall, I'm very pleased with Rhino Shield and would recommend to any smart phone or tablet users who want a little extra protection for their device. To get your own, visit their website or check local stores such a Best Buy, Target, Etc. Rhino Shield retails for $24.99.

Note: I was provided with one Rhino Shield Impact Resistant Screen Protector free for review. No other payment or compensation was received. The opinions expressed are are strictly my own.


Small Coat Closet Makeover

We're fortunate to have two coat closets in our house. The larger one is at the back of the foyer by the kitchen and isn't as convenient, but works best size wise for our coats. The smaller is near the garage and laundry room, but is too small to hold all our coats and, honestly, has become a disastrous catchall since we moved in. Until this past weekend. While Dylan was off having fun with grandparents, Trent & I tackled several projects around the house including a full makeover on the small coat closet.

Small Coat Closet Makeover for under $60

Rewinding to last week, here's what the small coat closet looked like:

See what I mean? Disastrous is the correct term. I had made little attempts since we moved in in September 2012, but mostly it was just a dumping ground where the door could close and we could almost forget it. "Almost" in that the shoe boxes on the top shelf hold my work shoes so I literally open this closet at least 5 days a week. No forgetting there was a mess in there.

We started by emptying everything out. I quickly got rid of anything we no longer needed such as some random empty shoe boxes. Then sorted and listed what I wanted to keep/organize. Next I measured the closet and, as with most of our bigger projects, sketched a plan so we could determine how it would all lay out and how much wood we would have to buy.

I knew I wanted one shelf higher. This would be a spot for something that we needed to store, but didn't need often as I have to use the step ladder to reach it. Turns out to be the perfect spot for the cat carrier. We keep this in the house vs the garage because, well, spiders. Eww. And having been through cat emergencies, I like it easily accessible and clean just in case. The step ladder is "next door" in the laundry room so it's not a ton of effort for me to retrieve the carrier.

The existing shelf I decided to keep for my work shoes - it's nice and convenient to quickly grab the pair I want before heading out the door. We had a couple of existing boxes that fit well in the leftover space so we can easily store other items we need but want out of "kid reach" - i.e., ponchos, shoe polishing supplies, etc.

Below this in the middle of the closet, I created an area for our pool/beach bags and towels as well as our yoga mats. I added a hook to hang the pool bag we use the least often. This left enough space below for our extra beach towels. The taupe bag is our "go to" pool bag and constantly packed with sunscreen, fresh towels and our pool key so we're ready to grab and go.

Toward the front, I added a hook on each side. One for Dylan's backpack and one to hang Baby Girl's backpack eventually (for now I'll probably use it for the diaper bag). I made sure to hit a stud for both of these hooks as, obviously, kids are tough on such things.

At the bottom we added two shelves. The upper holds the pool stuff mentioned above. The lower shelf holds two baskets. One for each child to contain their hats and gloves.

Finally, at the very bottom we added a large laundry basket to contain extra shoes. I store my own sneakers here. When searching online and in stores, I found a number of suitable options, but honestly, the price and durability of a laundry basket can't be beat. (The Target bag to the left is temporary - school supplies for Dylan's first day of kindergarten in less than 2 weeks. Eek!)

Best of all, the floor is now clear and there is still some space left in this closet. I almost don't want to put the door back on. Almost. It is nice to know there is a beautiful, organized space hiding there now.

Cost breakdown: approximately $60
- wood for new shelving $37
- paint (already owned)
- nails (already owned)
- 4 robe hooks (only used 3 so far) $6
- 2 black plastic containers $8 (50% off clearance find)
- laundry basket $8


14 Years

Our four legged kid celebrates 14 today! We spoiled her yesterday with a new toy:

Trent found her a cute mouse that can be filled with catnip. She took to it right away. I honestly haven't seen her play so happily with a toy in a while. Although, funny I now spot the smaller mouse in the background of the photo - I guess those still get a little love too. They show up in the most random places in our house.

Happy birthday to our sweet, chatty tortie! We're blessed and grateful to celebrate another year with you.

Do you celebrate your pet(s) birthday(s)?


Forest Friends Infant Car Seat Cover

Friends of ours were expecting their first baby next month (in about 2 weeks). She showed up early on Monday - healthy & perfect. Oops in that I hadn't yet shipped the gift! Luckily I had made it already.

They had a car seat cover listed on their registry so naturally I made one instead. I had fun shopping for fabrics. I was trying to find something feminine but not pink overload. This fun forest friends print jumped right out at me. Surprisingly, Dylan also loved it when I showed up with it asking if it was for "our baby." Aww. At the time we still didn't know whether we were expecting a boy or girl so I assured him I would go back after to buy fabric for our baby. (Note to self: still need to do that  - but we have a few months still.)

For the inside I chose a complimentary light green check patterned flannel. Just dark enough to help block a little extra light during nap time.

I packed it up and got it in the mail yesterday. Thankfully, they are in the same city so it should be delivered today - just in time to welcome the new family of 3 home.

PS - thanks to LM for once again letting me use her infant car seat for photographing!