Picnic Birthday Party Inspiration

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Last year around this time, I was planning Sadie's rainbow 1st birthday party! I love how it turned out - bright, fun and relatively easy to pull off. The party matched her bright and sunny personality and I had so much fun making the rainbow birthday cake, something I'd wanted to tackle for a long time!

Well, time has magically flown by and my little girl is turning the big 2! I initially thought that we would not do much of a party this year, but of course I've got the planning bug and am ready to jump into party planning again.

Steve and I were brainstorming what we wanted to do when we started talking about pie for some reason (Sadie fell in love with apple pie last fall, and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving!). From pie we jumped to picnics and that's where we've landed: an indoor picnic birthday party! I'm having so much fun starting to pull things together, with some great inspiration.

Picnic invite via Boo and Lou Design
 
Ants on a log cake via The Partiologist
 
Pie cupcakes via Oprah.com
 
A simple, rustic food table via Honest to Nod
 
Easy picnic blanket seating via Kate Spade (sadly, amazing blanket no longer available!)
 
With a few simple touches - some gingham fabric here, picnic baskets there - this party should be simple to put together but delightfully adorable. Oh, and why an indoor picnic, you ask? As the party will fall in April, there is no telling what Chicago's weather will be like! We could have a gorgeous warm-ish day or snow. So we'll be playing it safe indoors!
 
Do you have any fabulous picnic party inspiration to share?


Guidecraft Kitchen Helper

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

One piece of "toddler gear" we really wanted as Sadie has been getting bigger is a kitchen/learning tower. She was always wanting to be "up up up" when she was in the kitchen - she wanted to be up at our level for everything we were cooking.

I knew we didn't want to rely on a step stool, especially because we have slate floors in the kitchen, which are very uneven. I loved the idea of a learning tower that would completely surround Sadie so that she couldn't (easily) fall. After doing a lot of research, we settled on the Guidecraft Kitchen Helper.

 
 
What sold us on it was the ability to fold it when it was not in use. There are many other similar products out there, but most of them cannot be folded. Because we live in a small house with no storage space to spare (no garage, basement storage, etc) we needed something that could be flexible for our home.
 
The pros of the Guidecraft Kitchen Helper:
  • Can be folded
  • Comes in white to compliment our d├ęcor
  • Decently sturdy
The cons of the Guidecraft Kitchen Helper:
  • At around $150 it's not a cheap investment if you don't find yourself using it a lot
  • The little dry erase board and the chalkboard are cheap quality/not necessary
  • Sadie likes to stick her feet out of the little shape cutouts on the sides
  • You have to use a wrench to be able to fold it up, so it's not something you would want to do every day - you still need a dedicated place in your kitchen to keep it for daily use
For us, the pros definitely outweigh the cons and we have no regrets about adding this into our small kitchen. It took Sadie one day to get used to it and after that she always wants to be up in her "tower" whenever we are doing anything in the kitchen! We use it to wash her hands at the kitchen sink, we involve her in doing the measuring and mixing when we bake, and we often set her up with various spoons and bowls so that she can "cook" while we get some actual cooking done in the kitchen!
 
Overall, it is amazing how seamlessly we've added the helper into our daily routine and how it is not an extra thing but a truly useful tool for involving Sadie more with what we're doing.
 
And, the proof is in the picture - Sadie and I making biscuits together!
 
 

Easy Toddler Meals

Friday, February 14, 2014

We are always working to try new and interesting foods for Sadie, with a focus on what we can easily make, freezes and/or reheats well, and is a combination of tasty and nutritious. Fortunately Sadie is a pretty good eater, but she still shoots us down from time to time!

Black Bean Burgers

We love this black bean burger recipe from Weelicious because it's easy to throw together, the patties can be frozen individually and reheat wonderfully, you can sneak in any veggies you want, and Sadie just loves them! Our only twist is baking them in the over for 10 minutes on each side instead of pan frying them.

Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese

I love cauliflower, and I happen to love macaroni and cheese. Sadie also happens to love macaroni and cheese but so far has not been a big fan of cauliflower. Easy solution? Cauliflower macaroni and cheese! We really like Michelle Obama's cauliflower mac and cheese - super simple to throw together. And if you can't buy fresh cauliflower, just steam a bag of frozen cauliflower and puree. So simple, tasty, and good for a few days worth of meals!

Pumpkin Waffles

We like making a special breakfast on the weekend, and a big hit this winter has been all different kinds of waffles! We recently happened upon this pumpkin waffle recipe from Food.com and we love it. Better yet, we make a big batch of waffles and freeze some to eat on days where we don't have time to make a fancy breakfast. Just pop a frozen waffle in the toaster for a few rounds of toasting (depending on your specific toaster) and you're all set with a yummy waffle without all of the work.

Pizza

We like to make up a few homemade pizzas on the weekend and then eat the leftovers at the beginning of the week. The best part with a toddler is that you can load it with veggies, which are completely disguised by melted cheese! Use any pizza dough recipe or pre-bought dough, some red pasta sauce from a jar, and any cheese and veggies you want! Sadie's most recent pizza featured broccoli and black olives and she absolutely adored it.

Egg Scrambles

Our most common go-to meal for Sadie is an egg scramble. We throw in whatever veggies we have on hand (usual steamed peas and broccoli) and Sadie just devours her veggie scramble. It's so easy to make and since we always have eggs on hand, it's a quick and easy way to get her some protein.

What meals are in regular rotation for your toddler?

Toddler Room Design - Doors, Curtains and Fabric

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Progress on Sadie's "big girl" room is rapidly underway! In fact, we have a move date set for later this month and we've been working to make the room "Sadie ready" bit by bit. Needless to say, I've been doing a lot of online shopping and a whole lot of sewing!

Our biggest project to date, with the help of a good friend, was to replace the vintage French doors with a standard door. While charming, the old doors were difficult to open and close (they lead out into a sun room) and the thought of all of that glass combined with a wild toddler made me nervous. I love the new door and will sleep easier at night knowing it's safer.


While the doors were getting fixed, I was frantically looking for curtains. With the tall windows in the room, we needed curtains that were around 96" long. And we needed them to be light blocking/blackout curtains. A hefty - and expensive - quest.

After endless amounts of obsessive searching, I landed on West Elm's "Sketch" curtains. For $19.99 a panel, these curtains were a steal!

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As you can see from the picture above, these definitely weren't light blocking. My compromise to get curtains that were of a good quality but not boring (as many light blocking curtains can be) I ordered Eclipse's light blocking panels to attach to the back of the curtains. At $20 for a pack of 2 panels, these were a great deal. You do have to secure the hooks through the back your curtains (something their instructions aren't very clear about), but the finished product works well to keep the room dark on the sunniest of days (and definite need with a young child in the room). Because the light blocking panels are not as wide as the actual curtain panel, when the sun is shining brightly you do notice where the panel starts and stops so it's not a seamless effect, but this was a great budget saver for us as actual blackout curtains can be quite pricey.

With the curtains set, it was time to move onto fabric! I have been in love with designer Lotta Jansdotter since I stumbled upon her fabrics when working in Sadie's nursery. On a hunt for new fabrics, I fell in love with three different designs that perfectly coordinate. They still pull in the blue and yellow of Sadie's current nursery but with a fresh new perspective.

from left to right: Ball and Leaves in Schooner; Wide Strip in Sunspray; Basket Weave in Schooner
 
These fabrics are lovely in person - rich colors and playful designs. I've had so much creating a new sheet, pillow case, and quilt for Sadie. I just can't wait to see everything actually come together in the room! Bedding sets for children are quite easy to make yourself and are much more inexpensive than buying an entire set. I'm definitely planning on sharing all of the tutorials I used.
 
Now that the big items are out of the way - door, bedding, curtains - I'm having fun with all of the little details. Currently in the works are a polka dot decal wall, some adorable little wall hooks, coordinating stuffed animals...the list goes on!
 
In the meantime, each day we are reminding Sadie that the office will soon be her room, and talking about where her bed will go. She loves spending time in "daddy's office" so we hope she'll love it just as much when it's her big kid room!