DIY Wednesday: Frosted Valentine Cookies [Toddler Edition]

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Happy Valentine’s Week, everyone!

For today’s DIY Wednesday, I decided to be “brave momma” and make oh-so-messy frosted sugar cookies with Ella.

Those that know me know I don’t really like “messy” things — but I feel becoming a mom has been the best thing to teach me patience, understanding, and to accept life for the amazing journey it is, instead of constantly striving for “perfection,” which doesn’t really exist anyway.  I feel as if I have spent so many of my years striving for”perfection” — and what I’ve come to realize, as Voltaire said, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.”  If we keep these high standards of perfection, and don’t stop doing something until it is “perfect,” or worse — don’t try something new for fear of not being good enough — we won’t complete anything, we won’t experience new adventures, and we may miss out on beautiful memories. A little deep and kinda heavy for a cookie baking day, but you get the idea. 🙂

So today, we got messy!

I sorta cheated and bought packaged cookie dough (oh no! ;)) from the grocery store.  I told Ella we were going to make cookies, and I swear she lit up like a ray of sunshine, just repeating “Cookie, cookie” over and over again.

We rolled the dough out, I taught her that sometimes you have to use a tiny bit of flour to keep it from sticking, and she pat it down with her hands.  Then, she used these little cookie cutters to cut out our cookie shapes.

Afterward, I let her put sprinkles on a few of the small hearts to show her a preview of what we would do once they were baked and cooled.

She must have sat in front of the oven for about 5 minutes watching the cookies bake — which in toddler world, is FOREVER.  She would look up at me with questioning eyes and say, “All done?” “All done?”  Soon, baby.  Soon.

Once the cookies were done, I let them cool for almost an hour before showing Ella that they were out of the oven.  I knew I wanted her to eat lunch first, and if I showed her a cookie, lunch would be out of the question. So, after we ate lunch, We sat on the counter and watched as Momma frosted each cookie, and Ella sprinkled cute heart shaped sprinkles on each one.

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She loved this — it was an absolute blast.

I had a smaller heart cookie that I iced and let her decorate, and told her that this one was extra special because it was for her to eat.  “Eat?” She said with smiling eyes.

And, EAT SHE DID!  With each bite she would make “Mmm” sounds and try to say “It’s good!” with her mouth full.

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She’s the greatest thing. And, I think she’s quite the decorator!  Future Masterchef Junior?  We’ll see!  The cookies came out really cute, and tasty, too!

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Life is messy, friends.  A hot, sticky, slobbery, half eaten mess. But you know, it’s okay. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be as beautiful.  And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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DIY Wednesday: Valentine’s Day Art (Toddler Edition)

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Happy DIY Wednesday, friends!

This week, we are craft-crazy and gearing up for one of my favorite holidays: Valentine’s Day.  I’m not really sure why I love Valentine’s Day so much — I’m a firm believer in showing your love for someone (everyone) EVERYDAY, and not just one day a year — but, something about the hearts, the colors, the sweet messaging — I just love LOVE. 🙂  Ella was a huge help this week by assisting in decorating our foyer for the season, as well as helping pick out the flowers to make our Spring wreath.

 

We also worked on a special gift for the Grandmas — which is our DIY Wednesday treat for you to try at home! Ella’s new favorite activity is painting — either with her hands or these larger paintbrushes we bought her.  Last week, Michaels had a sale on blank white canvas 2/$7.99 with a 40% off coupon. We bought 2 packs, and were going to make a special painted canvas for each of the Grandmas to enjoy and hang up!

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First, I took a heart shaped foam piece to use as a stencil (or you can make your own stencil out of construction paper).  Then, I traced this heart onto the canvas to give me an outline for our art piece.

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After all the hearts were traced, I placed pieces of masking tape (or painters tape will work too!) to fill the entire heart outline/cutout.  This was the most time consuming part of the process — but I had to keep reminding myself that it would be worth it in the end! Make sure every piece of the heart is covered with tape — this is very important to achieve the end result.  Double up on taping, if necessary!

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After each canvas was taped out, I placed all four canvases side by side on our kitchen table.  Then, I poured a little bit of pink, red, and white paint onto a paper plate for Ella to dip either her hands or paintbrush into.  I used Crayola’s Washable paints for this — which was super easy to clean up, trust me — you’ll want this, because as we know, toddlers definitely know how to make a mess! 🙂 After her workspace was all set-up, I let her paint to heart’s desire (yes, pun intended).  And paint she DID — paint was all over my table and on the floor, but more importantly, she had a BLAST covering these canvases!

After she was finished, we cleaned up, and I let the canvases dry COMPLETELY!  This took a few hours, but I recommend letting it dry as much as possible before attempting to take the tape off.  This will prevent you from having wet paint get on the cutout heart section. Once you feel your paintings are dry, carefully take off the tape pieces.  If you use washable paint, you can use a damp cloth to fix any imperfections that may have shown up in the white area.  Lastly, I took a black Sharpie and wrote the word “Love” in the bottom corner of the heart — but you can write anything you want, or leave it blank.

End Result: a really cute hangable wall piece that the Grandmas are sure to love — especially knowing it was hand-painted by their little Ella Grey (young, aspiring artist!).

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Try it out, and if you do, drop me a comment!  I would love to see what different ideas you can come up with.

Have a great day!

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CHOPPED Championship 2015

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So, as mentioned in my previous post here, to ring in my 29th birthday, we held a CHOPPED Championship competition at our house — and boy, was it FUN!

For those who haven’t seen CHOPPED, a little background: Chopped is a cooking competition on Food Network, where three chefs battle it out by creating dishes using secret ingredients that are hidden in a mystery basket — they do not know those ingredients until they open the basket right before they cook.  Each chef MUST use every ingredient in the basket, as well as have the option to use ingredients from a limited pantry.  The chef who has the worst dish is CHOPPED, and then two chefs battle, and then eventually you are left with a Chopped Champion who wins!

Since we only have one oven/stove (and we all aren’t chefs, by any means), I had to adjust the rules of Chopped a little to accommodate.  I paired everyone up into teams of two.  Each team was in charge of a type of dish: appetizer, entree, and dessert.  The team that was cooking that dish purchased ingredients for a different team’s basket, so no one knew what they were going to be cooking with until it was time to cook. Each team had 45 minutes total to prepare their dish: 5 minutes for planning, 40 minutes for cooking.  Meanwhile, while that team is cooking, the remaining chefs trash talked, drank delicious wine, and enjoyed watching the cooking team panic 🙂

After each dish was completed, the chefs that weren’t cooking would taste and judge the dish on a scale from 1-5 on the following three categories: taste, presentation, and creativity.  At the end of the competition, all scores were added, and the team with the highest score was crowned the 2015 Chopped Champions!

FIRST UP: Team Appetizer!

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Mystery Ingredients: BBQ Flavored Goldfish, Lil Smokies, Vanilla Pudding, and Kiwi.

WHOA!  I really thought this was a hard basket — good job Team Dessert for choosing these items! Team Appetizer were champs though, they jumped right in and got to work! They used the goldfish to create a bread crumb to coat the sausages and used the pudding and kiwi to blend together with spices (and random sauces from my refrigerator) to create a dipping sauce. And, it was dang delicious!!

The Result:

 

NEXT: Team Entree!

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Mystery Ingredients: Shrimp, Jicama, Hard Root Beer, Fruit Loops

Uh, so.. this was freaking HARD!!!  Good job Team Apps for picking these ingredients!  I was on Team Entree, and when I saw the Jicama, I drew a complete blank.  But, We acted quickly, and thought — Shrimp Tacos.  We toasted some tortillas and made a Jicama chip in the oven, cooked down the root beer to make a sauce (adding in the fruit loops and extra spices), and created a tasty cabbage slaw with onion and red peppers.  It turned out pretty tasty, and definitely looked pretty!

 

FINALLY, Team Dessert!

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Mystery Ingredients: Fruit Punch flavored “Santa Beard” candy, Glazed Donuts, Raspberries, and Radish.

Since I bought the ingredients for the dessert basket, I actually thought they would be pretty easy.  They weren’t for that team though, completely stumped on radish!  They did amazing though — ended up melting down the candy and and creating a candied radish with it, created a chocolate raspberry sauce to drizzle over a BROWNIE they made (holy cow–they only had 40 mins!), which they topped with homemade whipped cream and layered on top of the donut!  It was intense — and super sweet — but they did an amazing job!

 

In the end, only one team could prevail — and that team was….

…drumroll please…

…..

TEAM APPETIZER!!

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It was a close run, but ultimately, their appetizer was amazing and very delicious. I actually wish I had more of it… right now. 🙂

This had to be one of the best birthdays ever —  I’m so lucky to be surrounded by the greatest friends and family — and for those who made it out to this MONUMENTAL event — thank you!  You guys are my heroes, and I don’t know what I would do without you!

Until next time.. and there will be a next time — I’m already pumped for a rematch! 🙂

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Ella’s FROZEN 2nd Birthday

Last Sunday, we were super excited to celebrate our special little girl’s 2nd birthday — and as many 2 year old little girls would wish, we celebrated in a very FROZEN fashion!

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Food/Dessert table for Ella’s FROZEN 2nd Birthday Party!

This year, we decided to host the party at our new home.  We had the space, a backyard — a much needed change from our tiny home in Jacksonville.  Hosting at our home was great — as there wasn’t a need for transport, and I was able to plan ahead and set up the party in advance.

We had clever sign on our front door to welcome guests.  After they entered, we had a table with a sign/color picture for Ella and party hats/tiaras.

For activities, we had a ball pit for the kids, a “Marshmallow Knockout” game, cornhole for kids and for adults, a “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” station (where kids can play in fake snow), and a photo booth! The photo booth was a huge hit, and everyone enjoyed taking photos and uploading to their social media accounts. Even Ella got in on the fun!

The food/dessert table was a lot of fun!  For the backdrop, I took three plastic tablecloths purchased from the dollar store, pinned them together, and cut strips in them to make a streamer-like effect (same for the photo booth). I also hand cut and strung the pennant bunting to flow with the color scheme.

Each food item had it’s own tented food sign.  The foods we featured are: Rock Candy sticks, mixed sandwiches, Yoohoo drinks, a meat and cheese platter, Hershey hugs, blue and white sixlets, a veggie platter, chocolate covered cake truffles, pretzels, cupcakes, ombre rice krispie treats, and cheetos.  The cake truffles, cupcakes, and rice krispies were all handmade.  The ombre rice krispies were interesting — perhaps I shall write a tutorial on that soon? 🙂

I wanted the cake to be simple — sure, I could’ve gone crazy with the theme, but I really wanted to stay simple, sweet, and classy. The cake was vanilla with whipped topping, which made it easier to do the swooped top.  We also sprinkled edible glitter flakes on top to make it look like snow, but unfortunately the photos didn’t pick it up. I also handout the bunting to match the one above the table. Big shoutout to my mom who helped with the decorating of the cake and cupcakes!

The party was a huge success.  I originally intended this party to be a bit more low-key than last year’s, but I actually think I did more this year.  Again, totally worth it. 🙂  Now.. to start planning year 3!

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Three Musketeers! Happy Birthday, Ella Grey!

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#Throwback Thursday: Ella’s First Birthday Party

It’s so hard to believe that this past weekend, my little Ellabean turned TWO! It seemed like yesterday that she was born!  Since I will be posting tomorrow about her second birthday, I thought today would be a great opportunity to “throw it back” to last year, when the sweet girl turned ONE! 🙂

We planned a “Very Hungry Caterpillar” birthday for her first one — I wanted something a little different, and at the time, this was her favorite book for us to read to her.  Plus, for this Pinterest-loving Momma, I was super excited to decorate and set-up a food table for this theme!

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Tree-lined backdrop was totally worth the transportation struggles!

We hosted the party at a local park in Jacksonville, our favorite one to go to that was near our home.  Transport wasn’t the easiest thing, and despite people tying to convince me to host it at home, I was hellbent on having a beautiful tree-lined backdrop for my food table (silly, I know, but hey — check out the pics!). We couldn’t have had more perfect weather — it was sunny and comfortable, which is a surprise at any time in Florida.

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Close-up of sidewalk chalk art for Ella’s First Birthday!

We hand cut the pennant bunting out of colored scrapbooking cardstock, and stapled them onto white yarn.  We strung the bunting around three sides of the pavilion we set the food table under. (NOTE: This bunting was time consuming to make, but I’ve used it SO many times since making it!  In fact, part of the bunting is now hanging in Ella’s bedroom!) Our good friend, Amanda, was awesome to design the amazing sidewalk chalk art under the pavilion as a welcome to party guests!  People raved about this design all day, and it only cost us 50 cents for the sidewalk chalk and took Amanda about 20 minutes to draw!

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Side view of the food table

The Food/Dessert table was so much fun to create!  Since it was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” we had a lot of wiggle-room to play with the different foods featured in the book. We assembled all of the food in my tiny kitchen — which is so hard to believe, now that we’ve moved to Orlando and my current kitchen is about 4 times the size of that one (thank you!).  For food, we had meat/cheese platter, veggie platter, sandwich platter, chips, bowl of “Cuties” clementines, and butterfly shaped crackers.  For desserts, we had macarons (that were colored red, light green, and kelly green), cake batter rice krispie treats, cupcakes, decorative cake and Ella’s “Smash” cake.  We also had three jars of fruit in the back of the table that had apples, pears, and oranges.

The cakes were a funfetti (vanilla cake with sprinkles) flavor, and the cupcakes were a mix of chocolate and vanilla.  Everything had vanilla buttercream, and fondant decor.  For Ella’s “Smash” Cake, we made and hand cut fondant pieces to represent the different foods eaten throughout the book.  For the decorative cake, we made a caterpillar design out of circle fondant pieces and made a mini pennant bunting to match the one above the table.  Each of the cupcakes had a fondant decor piece that represented a fruit eaten in the book — and I’ll note: we did NOT have cutters for these pieces. Each one was morphed by using a circle cutter or hand cut with an Xacto knife!

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Photo Prop for Ella’s First Birthday!

For activities at the party, we had a ballpit for the little ones to play in, a photo prop, a small game of cornhole, and sidewalk chalk to decorate the path leading to the party area.  The photo prop board was also hand made, and turned out super cute!  We also handmade the favor bags, had a book signing area with the gifts, and a beverage station.

Last, but certainly not least, was the birthday girl herself!  We handprinted a onesie with a “1” and a caterpillar on it.  We also made the green tutu and headpiece that she wore.  She was so stinkin’ cute!

All in all, although it was a LOT of work to put this all together, it was totally worth it!  Everyone had a great time, enjoyed the treats, and little Ella had a BLAST! Shoutouts to our AMAZING family and friends who helped us create such a memorable first birthday — with special mentions to my mom, Granny, Amanda, Wade, Natasha, Everett, Patrice, and Abbey for being CHAMPS! Wouldn’t have been able to do it without you!

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