DIY Tractor Cake

I have a few little boys who are in-love with John Deere and all things tractor. In their minds it must be yellow and green! I have done a few John Deere themed parties but prefer not to pay for the actual John Deere party favors and cakes. For this one I decided to give a DIY tractor cake a try and here is how it turned out.

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I baked two 9×13 cakes & then cut them to stack up the pieces in order to make the right shape. I used toothpicks & skewers to support the frosting holding it together.

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I used the Wilton small star tip to frost most of it & the small round tip to make the lines & write. The small front tires are made of Hostess chocolate donettes.

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It was a pretty big cake but turned out alright. He loved it and that’s all that mattered to me. 🙂

 

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Happy baking!

Cowabunga Birthday!

My 5yr old was super excited to have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle party for his 6th Birthday. He really enjoyed checking out all of the cool pictures of other kids parties online to decide what he might like. Honestly I think planning was as fun as the party itself.

As always I try to execute my children’s birthday parties spending as little as possible. I want them to have wonderful memories of their birthdays and I want them to feel special. I just don’t want or don’t feel the need to break the bank in the process. After all, we live on a budget. 🙂

This cowabunga birthday turned out pretty well and did include some DIY. It does take time for those parts but it saves money. Here is what we did..

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I used a photo from the web and inserted it into Microsoft word. If I remember correctly I was able to print four per page. I also opted to do a screen shot and save it as a JPEG so I could email his friends from school as I didn’t have their addresses. (The address & RSVP are cropped out for privacy. They were at the bottom).

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I made the piñata using discarded newspaper & one of those dollar store punch balloons. After it dried I cut a hatch opening, covered it with snipped crepe paper, added the eyes & mouth (construction paper) and then filled it with candy. I did learn the hard way that I should use a small square if cardboard to support the holes where it hangs so it doesn’t break away from the string before the kids bust it open. My hubby helped me with that one,

IMG_6597The kids treat bags were made of green bags I found in the wrapping paper section of the dollar store. I used crepe paper, construction paper & sharpies to give them the ninja turtle look. They contained a ninja turtle cup, stickers & other small green trinkets from the dollar store. They worked well for the kids to put their piñata candy in as well.

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Decorations were pretty basic. Crepe paper is a standard supply for me. (I have a laundry basket full of party supplies organized in large zip bags so I can easily find the colors of balloons or crepe paper I might need). I used balloons, crepe paper, construction paper & sharpies to make Ninja Turtle heads. I found a fun round green decoration at the dollar store and did the same thing to it and hung it above the table. For the birthday sign I used my scrapbook die cutter to cut ovals of 2 sizes, glued them together & used a green sharpie to make them look like turtle shells. I then printed off the letters using a free downloaded Ninja Turtle font. I also snagged all of his Ninja Turtle toys to add to the decorations.

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The food was easy; homemade pizza, green Kool-aide (green slime), and Ninja Turtle fruit & veggie trays. I found green napkins, cups, plates, napkins & plastic table clothes that I had leftover from a previous John Deere party that I was able to use-score!

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The cake was actually made of a batch of cupcakes. It meant a ton of frosting but was so easy to serve. The white frosting was dyed green and I started with chocolate frosting and added dye to make the black frosting.

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My son loved this party. His exact words were, “It was awesome!” The smile on his face was rewarding but I also liked how inexpensive it was to pull-off.

Happy party planning!

Holiday Gift Ideas

As you may have noticed by my previous post Bitty Birthday Bash I am a big fan of the company Minted. I love that the artists are independent and from all over the globe. I also love that their products are high quality and can be customized! How cool is that?? When the Minted catalog comes in the mail my daughter and I look at it as closely as any other magazine because there is always something new and interesting with so many talented designers.

If you are anything like me you are getting your shopping lists organized and scouring the internet for ideas. What do you get for those family members who have everything? And oh my word, some of those DIY pinterest ideas while cute aren’t for everyone. So if you are in need a gifts for grandparents, Godparents, or your spouse I have a great idea for you-a silhouette art print!

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Seriously, aren’t they the cutest?? They seem to capture something really unique that your standard photo just can’t. I have silhouette prints of my kids on my wall and just love them. I get compliments on them when guests arrive as they are hung by the front door. What a unique and personalized gift for loved ones on your list! It’s as simple as uploading a photo of your child, pet or loved one and let Minted do all of the work.   Screen shot 2015-12-03 at 3.51.15 AM Screen shot 2015-12-02 at 4.52.53 PM There are so many choices too; foil-pressed, letter-pressed, or printed (with a plethora of colors to pick from). And the best part, Minted extended their cyber monday deals so you can get 25% off!   If you are in the mood for deals those extended cyber monday deals also include 20% off their holiday cards. Screen shot 2015-12-02 at 5.17.56 PMScreen shot 2015-12-02 at 5.18.22 PMScreen shot 2015-12-02 at 5.19.42 PM You can customize your card and they have a price point for every budget. Oh, and if that isn’t amazing enough, they do receipt address printing FOR FREE!! Sounds like angels singing right? 😉 As you get your shopping lists together or search Pinterest for what to get your family and friends this holiday season I encourage you to check out Minted’s custom silhouette art prints. I’d love your feedback. Let me me know your thoughts on the silhouette prints, other holiday gift ideas you have or what your get those hard to shop for loved ones.

Happy Holiday Shopping!

DIY Laundry Detergent

Doing laundry for 8 people can get overwhelming so I do about 1-2 loads each day to keep it under control. Doing laundry daily means lots of laundry detergent.  I started making my own soap about a year ago because buying detergent frequently was getting annoying & frankly expensive. I talked it over with a good friend of mine and we thought it didn’t seem too difficult and we were right. I found a few recipes I thought looked manageable and ended up going with this one. It yields 10 gallons of soap because it is concentrated. It IS safe for use in high-efficiency washers and as mom of 5 boys I can also attest to its ability to get out stains.

DIY Liquid Laundry Detergent:

1 Cup 20 Mule Team Borax

1  1/2 Cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

1 Bar Fels- Naptha Soap**

#1 5-Gallon Bucket with a lid (Don’t forget the lid it is VERY important!!)

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The main ingredients are easily found at your local Walmart at a very reasonable price. I don’t have to buy them very often which is great. I have all of the ingredients on hand in my laundry room to make a new batch when I need it.

1. Put 4 Cups of water in a large pot on medium heat.

2. Cut up the bar of soap. You can grade it by hand but I prefer to cut it in half the long way and use an electric grader. It’s so slick!

Continue reading

“Old Computer” Themed Birthday

My sweet boy turning 8 was so excited to have his ‘Golden Birthday’ he began pondering what theme he wanted for his party months in advance. When he settled on what he referred to as “Old Computer” theme I had to laugh. What is that? He explained to me that he liked old computers and wanted a computer cake. He loves minecraft so I thought he wanted that type of computer theme but he quickly clarified for me. He was thinking of the old Apple II from 1984. HA! This is so far beyond what I thought he knew about the history of technology!! After I wrapped my head around all of that I decide this should be easy and man was it! I started with some old dot matrix printer paper we had gotten from my in-laws. You know, that paper with the holes on each side…yeah that stuff. I printed off banners and signs using the Minecraft font which looks like the hold school font. ( I downloaded it for another Minecraft party I had done). I then glued the words onto the old-school printer paper. Bam, done!  Continue reading

Grocery Shopping for a large family

With such a large family it takes a lot of planning and preparation to feed everyone. I never thought I could get behind a meal planning calendar but for budget’s sake it needed to be done. I had the kids sit down with me and plan a 2 week rotating calendar. We do this in the fall for a winter meals and again in the spring for summer meals. If I or the kids decide a particular meal isn’t working we just change it.
I have the menu on a clip board in the pantry to whomever has the kitchen for their chore that month can get out the ingredients and possibly prep. Under the menu I have the recipes for those meals clipped as well.

imageBelow that clipboard hangs another one. This is the special ‘shopping’ clipboard that has a lovely spreadsheet clipped into it. (Yea, there are probably a few post-it’s on there too so I don’t forget to add things) The spreadsheet includes items we typically buy in alphabetical order as well as a separate list of what I call the ‘target’ items (toothpaste, diapers, etc.). I don’t buy all of those things at Target (after all we are talking cheap) but that seems to sum up the contents of the list for our family budgeting purposes. As we run out of things we can simply mark it on the spreadsheet or add it to the bottom. So each month when we go shopping (yes, it’s a monthly trip) I bring along a clipboard with the items needed highlighted in yellow and as they get tossed into the carts (yup, we require at least 2 carts) I can cross them off with a blue marker.

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I am a BIG FAN of Aldi although most folks think we shop at Sam’s Club or Cosco. The reality is those stores are great for some items but the vast majority of the grocery items are cheaper at Aldi and I can get the family in and out quicker because it’s a smaller store. (They carry all but a couple items on my list it’s just that they don’t carry a bunch of different brands of the same product) What works best for us is bringing 2-3 quarters for carts, 6 laundry baskets and a baby carrier. I can do all the shopping on my own if I put the little one on my back and the toddler in a cart and have one of the older kiddos push the second cart. The Kids are great at helping put items in the cart and have gotten accustomed to how this operation works. We discuss our budget with them and how that whole process works in hopes that they will be fiscally responsible adults. They have fun trying to estimate the cost at the register.

We purchase most of our groceries at Aldi, a few at Walmart and Sam’s club. I try to get most ‘Target’ budget items at the Dollar Store or Walmart. I also LOVE the thrift stores. I have a big selection of thrift stores to shop at and love that I can find treasures at a great price and the little ones can always find a toy of $1 or less.

After pushing 2 or 3 full carts out to the suburban the real fun begins ;). Those laundry baskets I referred to early come into play. I load the groceries up into the baskets in a manner which my hubby calls “Tetrus” but really I just put the cold stuff in 2 baskets, heavy stuff on the bottom and the lighter stuff on top with one basket reserved for chips, breads, etc. This process can be a quick one depending upon the weather and how the kids are behaving. On one occasion I did have a lady sit and watch me load the whole thing because she said she didn’t believe I could fit it all in. (I kinda enjoyed I proving her wrong .)

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When we get home those baskets then get unloaded one at a time placed in a super cool wagon and wheeled up into the kitchen. To get up into the house through the service door I use a ramp my hubby made for the kids to ride their bikes over but it works just fine for my needs. I can get the whole suburban unloaded fairly quickly this way and the organization helps so I can get the cold stuff put away and take my time getting the rest put away.

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I’d love ideas from other large families. How do you do it? Any tips for me?

Birth Photography

My youngest is 16 months now but I am still catching up on scrapbooking his first year. I have a tone of photos and as I look through them it’s almost overwhelming. I have a few favorites on my phone, ipad, framed, etc. but none of them hold a candle to the ones taken on the day he came into the world. THOSE are the photos I still have on my phone, framed by my bed, and in the nursery. THOSE are the photos I look at almost daily. Birth photos? Daily? Sounds crazy right? Maybe…But I assure you they are ah-mazing! (Here are a few to share via the phenomenal RedBird Hills Photography) When I first heard about the concept of birth photography I was like, “What the heck!?!? Why would I want another person I don’t really know in there watching the crazy, unfiltered me in labor??? Who in their right mind would want to see photos of THAT?” So I did want anyone would do I read up on it and checked out some birth photography websites. I was very impressed by Redbird Hills photography. I read a snippet of a birth story and I looked at photos of 3 strangers bringing their babies into the world and was bawling my eyes out! What she captured with those photos wasn’t just rated G, it was beautiful. I knew right then, I HAD to do this!! As luck would have it I have the bestest hubby in the whole-wide world. He knew I wanted this and despite the cost he booked Redbird Hills. What a guy! She was amazing. She intuitiely knew when to give us privacy but yet was able to capture the whole birth story from laboring to the baby meeting his big sister and brothers. The way we looked at one another, the emotions on our faces when we first saw our baby, seeing the baby so fresh, us bonding and the big kids reactions to the baby-precious memories.

It was also fan-stinkin’-tastic to NOT have to rely on my husband to take photos whilst trying to be there for me through the whole process. He was able to focus on helping me through labor and birth.

I don’t take out the video and watch it but I do look at the birth photos regularly. They remind me of what a miracle birth is, how much love my honey and I have for one another, and how amazing a newborn is. I was skeptical of birth photography when I first learned of it and couldn’t fathom this as a trending thing but I am so glad I checked it out. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was worth every penny. If you are even thinking about it I encourage you to check it out.

A Bitty Birthday Bash

My youngest will be turning 1 soon and although with such a big family I feel like there is always a birthday party to plan the big O-N-E is a fav of mine. I found an awesome new place (Minted) to find the cutest birthday invites, party decor & creative themes. To be honest, as I was looking for birthday invites for my little guy I soon found myself completely sidetracked looking at art & room decor. I love vintage, and can easily get sucked into such adorable and creative art…

Eventually I pulled myself back to the task at hand. My mission to find a theme for #6’s first birthday was a success with one small caveat. In the last few years I have really fallen for giraffes. I was hoping to find something that would allow for giraffe inclusion in this bitty birthday bash. Not only did I find one, I found two and love them both. Decisions, decisions…

The first one is the Zoo Menagerie Party Decor

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Then to choose the color of the invites but again I like them both. Such a simple, sweet theme. What’s not to love?

Pink

Orange

And the banner can be personalized?? Yes, please!

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The second one is the Birthday Balloon Fun Party Decor

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The giraffes are just what I was looking for. I think the bright colors and circles make this one look so fun.

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Birthday Balloon Fun

So which do I go with? The Zoo Menagerie Party Decor or Birthday Balloon Fun Party Decor? Please share your thoughts. I’d love to hear.

DIY Lego Movie Costumes

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Halloween 2014 we wanted to go for a family costume theme and the kids absolutely LOVE the Lego Movie so it seemed like a great fit.

 

Batman

Wildstyle

Emmett

Badcop

Benny

 

 

 

 

 

My oldest think’s he is a pretty big deal (Batman). My only girl is a mix of emotions and yet not afraid to do her own thing (Wild Style/Lucy). My middle fella is a people pleaser and always happy (Emmett). My little man can be super sweet and then flip on a dime (Bad Cop). My toddler is so one-track-minded “SPACESHIP!!” (Benny). And then my baby, the piece of resistance of course!!. I did my research and found that many others had done DIY Lego costumes before which gave me the courage to give it a try. I took my ‘six-pack’ to the craft store and Menards to gather the supplies and get to it.

Basic Supplies: Concrete form tube, spray paint, rubber cloves, small plastic pot, insulating foam (get the good stuff or it’ll make a horrid mess when cutting), duct tape, craft paints, paint brushes.


Lego Batman1. Lego body:
The base for each costume is a costume. The larger costumes were other boxes which I snagged from the recycle bin. (Diaper boxes work great and with 2 in diapers that boxes were easy to find.) The kids each tried on their boxes and I cut the holes accordingly. We used some tape in various spots to make it more comfy too. I spray painted the boxes out in the yard although I am sure my neighbors thought I was nuts with a line of sprayed boxes. After drying throughly I was ready to paint the details. I found photos online and pictures from the kids Lego movie figurine books to help guide me. Drawing and then painting was a long and tedious step for me. I used lots of duct tape for the costumes whenever possible. Craft paints and Sharpie’s were a lifesaver here as well. I spent more time painting the details than anticipated but the kids reaction to the costumes made it all worth it.

Lego Lucy2. Lego head: The heads for the larger costumes were made from concrete form tubes which I cut into smaller pieces with powertools. (Side note: This wasn’t easy and if I was to do it again, I would have gotten help with this part). I sprayed the tubes yellow first; however, if I was to do this again I’d wait and spray AFTER cutting….lesson learned. The Benny costume was made for a 2 year old so I decided to use a small plastic pot instead. After cutting the tube into 4 pieces I used the tube as a stencil and traced the inside of the tube on the foam so I could get the right sized circle to fill the top of the ‘Lego head.’ After cutting out and then sanding the edge of the foam circles I pushed them into the top of each tube and rounded the edges with duct tape. More spraying took place after taping newspaper cut to fit as to not get black paint on the yellow lego faces.

IMG_00423. Finishing Touches: We added a cape to the batman costume by cutting holes to tie it within. I also used leftover pieces of the foam to create Badcop’s helmet, batman’s ears and Wild Style’s hair. Again,  I used duck tape to round them out and connect them. (Through researching online I read that the foam will basically melt if spray painted. I tested that theory which I found to be correct so I then proceeded to cover all of the foam with duct tape to avoid that problem which  I would say was a success). I totally cheated on the back of Badcop by finding a font that matched. I printed, cut and clued those bad-boys on the box and it worked great. To add to Benny’s spacesuit I  poked holes in 2 empty plastic bottles and affixed them to the back of the box.

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The kids had fun and won a local costume contest which they were pretty jazzed about. They all thought their costumes were “AWESOME!” If you are thinking of trying a Lego DIY costume-GO FOR IT! There are many people who have made Lego costumes and share their info online which makes this totally manageable.

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