Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rainbow Birthday Party

Little G turned five this summer.  Five!!  She love, love, loves rainbows, so I thought what better way to celebrate her 5th birthday than by having a rainbow birthday party!  So I sat down with her and talked to her about her birthday party, and when I mentioned the idea of a rainbow theme, her face lit up with excitement.  At that moment, I knew it was a go.  I started brainstorming and scouring the internet for ideas, then got right to work.

First on the agenda:  rainbow party invites.  I decided to design these myself and was really happy with how they came out.  After a bit of hemming and hawing, I finally decided on the wording "Please join us for a rainbow of fun as we celebrate Gretchen's birthday!", the letters all being in rainbow colors, of course.  I initially had it with a white background, but it still seemed a little blah, so I added a blue sky background with a fluffy white cloud.  So that's the front:

On the inside is a big colorful rainbow with all of the details of the party:

Next up: the rainbow party decorations.  I wanted to keep the decorations fairly simple and inexpensive, so we started out making some paper rainbows.  Very easy to do...all you need is some paper or card stock in all the rainbow colors, something to cut it with (I used a paper cutter so that my strips would be nice and straight), and a stapler.

When we were making these, I was planning to stick with the traditional ROY G BIV color scheme, but G thought there should be pink in the rainbows, so we added that.  She also took a great interest in the color indigo...she was very intrigued by this new color that she had never heard of! 

On party day, we ended up putting these on a table inside with the rainbow sticker books (more on this in a bit!) and some rainbow roses (yes, they are real, and yes, they are dyed):

Crepe paper streamers are also an inexpensive and easy way to make a party feel festive.  Since this was a rainbow party, I picked up rolls in all of the rainbow colors (even indigo!!).  On party day, I hung a few streamers on the front porch so that our guests could easily spot the party house, then I hung them all along the ceiling creating a path from the front door, down the hall, to the kitchen, then split them so that half led to the back door (most of the party was in the back yard), and the other half led to the playroom (which, by the way, is not yet 100% done, but I did at least get the rainbow finished before the soon!!).  Here's a couple pics of the streamers:

So that's the decorations.  Now for the rainbow party food!  If you've looked for rainbow party ideas on the internet, you will likely have come across all sorts of dyed food concoctions to make rainbow food.  But since all of the colors of the rainbow can be found in food naturally, I don't see the need to make all of these dyed rainbow food-like things.  I kept it simple with fruit skewers, a veggie tray, and bags of rainbow goldfish crackers (made with natural dyes...yay!).  Here's the food table:

Ooooh, pretty!  I couldn't have been happier with house this turned out.  I really didn't have a plan ahead of time of how I was going to set the food table up, but I was thrilled when I saw in the forecast that the weather was going to be nice and we could have most of the party outside!  So I popped up a folding table, threw a cheap white table cloth on it, then ran more of those rainbow streamers (those big rolls of streamers really keep going and going!) across the top and down the sides.

Veggies were layed out in rainbow stripes:  grape tomatoes, baby carrots, yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, blue corn chips (closest I could get to a blue veggie!), and purple cauliflower, with bowl of ranch dip (kind of like a cloud!):

Rainbow fruit skewers with watermelon, oranges, pineapple, kiwi, blueberries, and grapes.  These were a big hit!  Almost all of them were eaten by the time the party ended:

You may have noticed a rainbow at the back of the food table (no, not the one hanging on the fence...we'll get to that in a minute).  This one is a rainbow of flowers!  My mom knew we were having a rainbow party for G's birthday, and put in a special request with her favorite florist (that would be me!) for some rainbow flowers for the birthday girl.  So I came up with this:

Birthday girl loved it, and our party guests did too!

So rainbow invites, rainbow decorations, rainbow food, rainbow about some rainbow fun??  For birthday parties, I like to have at least one or two games or activities lined the kids something to do and makes it feel like a party.  With the rainbow theme, I thought a scavenger hunt would be perfect!  Since kids usually love stickers, I decided to go with a rainbow sticker scavenger hunt.  So I made sticker books for all of the kids, with a page for each color of the rainbow:

I got lucky and found some great deals on stickers in rainbow colors (thank you Target dollar spot and Christmas Tree Shops!), which I cut apart and divided into each color of the rainbow (except indigo, much to G's dismay).  Each color was put in a bowl with a little sign:

I hid these bowls of stickers all around the house.  Initially I was going to make up clues to lead from one color to the next, but decided to nix it due to time constraints and also the fact that it wasn't really necessary for this age group to have fun with the hunt.  The kids loved this, and every one of them found all of the colors!

Now for that other rainbow you saw hanging on the fence.  This one was for the Rainbow Limbo!  G was so excited about doing the Rainbow Limbo at her party.  I had planned to do something more elaborate for the rainbow (I had visions of clear tubing filled with colored water so the light would shine through the colors).  In the end, I went with something much simpler, but still totally effective.  And since I already had plenty of streamers in all the rainbow colors, I figured I may as well use those:

The kids had a blast doing this!  After we had gone from high to low, G wanted to go from low to high, so we went with it.  And after that, it seemed like the kids still wanted to play, so I figured why not milk it for all it's worth?  I gave the kids a series of things to do going under the Rainbow Limbo, like "hop on one foot", "tip toe", and "hop like a bunny".  Then I had G be the leader, and everyone had to follow her, copying her movements.  Fun stuff!!

Now for the cake.  The rainbow cake.  I performed several experiments to make a rainbow layer cake with natural food dyes and got mixed results.  I thought I had all of the colors down, but I was a bit disappointed when baking the final cake that the orange layer did not turn out as it had previously, and the red/pink layer was not as vibrant as I had hoped.  But overall, you got the idea.  And not a drop of food coloring in it, so I can at least be proud of that!

And now finally, the rainbow party favors.  I had so much fun with these!  G helped pick out the favors, and everything had to be rainbow, of course.  We packaged everything in cellophane bags, tied at the top with curling ribbon in rainbow colors, and attached a tag that said "rainbow to go!":

Here's a peek at all of the fun rainbow goodies inside the bags:

clockwise from top left:  rainbow pencils (oriental trading co.) with hand sewn felt cloud toppers (me!), rainbow stickers (target), rainbow notepads (oriental trading co.), rainbow paint pots and brushes (ac moore), rainbow slap bracelets (oriental trading co.), bubble jars (oriental trading co.) with rainbow labels (me!), and rainbow crayons (oriental trading co.)

And that about sums up the Rainbow Birthday Party.  Yes, a lot of planning and effort went into it, but in the end when I asked G what her favorite part of the party was and she replied, "Everything!  The whole day!", it was all well worth it.  A smashing success!  Here's one last photo of the birthday girl with one of her rainbow roses (you can almost see her rainbow nail polish...)

"The Flower House"

Is it just me, or did this summer fly by?  We had every intention of starting work on the exterior of our home this summer, but due to some other unexpected expenses (pest removal and car!), it looks like it's going to have to wait until next summer (boo!).  But we did start looking at colors and have at least narrowed it down to blue.  On the bright side, I guess now we have another year to decide on the exact shade!  And I do believe we have at least rid the house of all of the critters which had invaded it and gotten the holes sealed up tight (knocking vigorously on wood), so that is definitely a good thing. 

Since we haven't been able to do much with our house, I thought the least I could do was redecorate this blog.  It was looking pretty bland, and our home is full of character, so shouldn't the blog reflect that?  I was debating what changes to make to the blog when it dawned on me:  The Flower House.  When we first looked at this house last summer, little G called it "the flower house" because of the floral wallpaper lining the entire entryway, stairway, and hallway upstairs. 

Over the course of the next few months, whenever we talked about the house, we would call it "the flower house".  The name just stuck, and seemed very fitting.  Now, I'm not typically a fan of wallpaper, but for some reason this wall paper has really grown on me.  I think a large part of that is because little G was so excited about "the flower house."  So, what better background to use for this blog than the very wallpaper that gave this house its name?  Hope you like the new look!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Saga of Household Pests

As I mentioned briefly in this post, we have had squirrels in our attic (well, technically, the ceiling above the attic, since the attic is finished). But that's not all we have had for household pests. It actually has become quite comical the things we have encountered since we moved in. In fact, so much so that I thought the subject deserved to be put into writing. So I thought I'd share a poem I've been working on about our household pests.

A Saga of Household Pests
by Shannon Hanley

When we first moved in
We knew there were mice
So traps we did set
Not once, and not twice,
But several times
Until we were certain
We had caught all of
These pesky vermin.

Then one day we saw
A small squirrel scurry
Into our attic
In such a hurry.
So we set a trap
To catch our intruder,
Enticing him with
Sunflower-nut butter.

Two squirrels were caught
And driven far away,
In hopes that they wouldn’t
Return to us someday.
We thought we were done
With our unwelcome guests,
Until we heard more
Scratching and unrest.

So then we decided
To call in the trapper,
To see if he could see
What was the matter.
Grey squirrels, he thought,
And he trapped some more,
Taking them far away
From their little door.

But then we were all
Quite surprised to find
Some more squirrels of
A different kind!
The flying squirrels who
Had also come to nest
Up in our attic
Would need to be addressed.

I think the trapper
Had now realized
That this job was bigger
Than he first had eyed.
As for us, we are
Very, very glad
That we gave up trapping
And hired this man.

We seemed to be done
With all the squirrels,
When we found out that
Our yard was in peril.
The crows were feasting
On something in the grass -
We weren’t too concerned,
We thought it would pass.

But then something else came
Through our lawn late one night -
Foxes pawing the ground -
It was quite a site!
It appeared there were grubs
That the birds were chomping,
But what of the foxes?
Why were they stomping?

We started asking
And some suggested moles,
But we didn’t see
Tracks or mounds, just holes.
It’s still undetermined
What’s destroying our lawn,
But at least the foxes
Seem to now be gone.

All was well for some time,
Then one day I went up
To the attic to work
And heard some hubbub.
Squirrels again?? I thought,
But the next morning
Something unexpected -
We had no warning.

We were startled to see,
When we glanced outside
Our bedroom window,
Looking at us wide-eyed,
Sitting on our roof,
Was a little raccoon.
I thought to myself,
What’s next - a baboon?

You would think we lived
Way out in the woods,
With all these pests coming
To our neighborhood.
But in the city
Happily we dwell -
Even with these troubles,
We still think it’s swell.

But I do hope that
Our saga of pests
Very, very soon
Can be put to rest.
And that no new critters
To our house should roam,
Wreaking more havoc
In our new home.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Playroom Update!

We're finally making some progress in the playroom.  I've been slowly chipping away at the task of painting all of the trim white, and I've come to two realizations:

1. Painting windows is very tedious
2. I probably should have used primer.

But, live and learn, eh?  I actually thought for half a second before I started that priming might be a good idea, but then I discovered the nearly full gallon of white semi-gloss in the basement, and thought:

go out and buy primer (and therefore delay the start of the project)
jump right in and just start with the paint (not spending any money and getting immediate gratification?  It's a win-win!)

Obviously I opted for the latter.  So, two coats in on most of the trim, and it looks like a third will need to be applied (dag nabbit!).  That being said, I'm loving the white trim.  Makes the whole room feel lighter and brighter.

Then I got this great idea to make valances for the windows that look like puffy white clouds (why is it that every project I start becomes more and more involved along the way?).  So I've been playing around with a piece of white fabric I had laying around (me?  have spare fabric??  never!!), and I think I've got it pretty well figured out.  But, I will need more fabric to make three valances, so off to the fabric store I go.  In the  meantime, here's a little sneak-peek at the grassy hills, which I did finally manage to finish up this weekend:

Saturday, May 5, 2012

April Recap

Wow, was April ever a whirlwind of a month!  We've had a lot going on this month, and I haven't had a moment to blog about any of our house projects.  So here's a little recap of our April:

1. Realized that painting the exterior of our house might be a bit more than we are capable of doing on our own this summer.  So...
2. Got several estimates from painters.
3. Raked and bagged more leaves.
4. Seasonal allergies kicked in (ugh!)
5. Fixed our broken garage door (well, I should say a temporary quick-fix...I expect we will have to revisit this little project again soon)
6. Put up a baby gate and baby-proofed the playroom for a newly mobile baby b.
7. Discovered half of our lawn is dead (more on this another day)

8. Continued sewing the rainbow quilt.
9. Started painting the play room (here's a little sneak peek:

I'm loving the blue, but I still have to get the green paint for the grassy hills, and...
10. I realized that I definitely want to paint the trim white in the play room (of course!)
11. Shuffled some furniture around.
12. Thought we had finally gotten rid of all of the squirrels above our attic (did I mention we had squirrels above our attic?  More on this another day)
13. Raked and bagged more leaves. (really?  more leaves??)
14. Washed the siding on our front porch (here's a pic of it half way done:


What a difference, eh?)
15. Heard something scurrying around above our attic and realized that we were wrong about #12.
16. Planted some grass seed in the mud pit (what I like to call the fenced area behind the house where there is nothing growing except for a couple hostas along the side, and apparently where some previous inhabitants had chickens!)
17. Pruned a few tree branches.
18. Passed an annoying cold around our family.
19. Realized we did not do a thorough enough job with #6 , so we moved more things around and out of the play room.  (As a side note, quite surprisingly, this is one of the most injury-producing items in our home:

because, you see, kids don't just sit on it.  They jump on it.  They climb on it.  They lean on it until it tips over and they land flat on their faces.)
20. Raked and bagged more leaves. (seriously, how many leaves do we have?!?)
21. Decided to start a children's music band. (because, you know, we don't have enough to do already!)
22. Found an almost full gallon of white semi-gloss paint in the basement. (score!)
23. Used newly found paint to paint a board for a height chart.
24. Installed newly made height chart board on wall, and began recording heights.
25. Celebrated baby b's 1st birthday!  (hooray!!)

So there you have it.  All in all, I'd say it was a good month, and I feel like we got a lot of little things accomplished.  We'll see what May brings!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Clean Up and More Quilt Progress

We've been pretty lucky weather-wise so far this spring. With some unseasonably warm days last week (in the 70's in March?? Usually it's still snowy!), we were actually able to get outside and start cleaning up the yard a bit. So we raked up some leaves (9 bags full, to be exact), and unveiled some of the landscaping.

I knew we had a few crocuses, as they had already made there way up through the covering of leaves, and I was excited to see some daffodils popping up too. I think there may be some irises and lilies as well, but it's a bit early to tell since they are just barely coming up out of the ground. It will certainly be fun to see what else we have growing.

Then over the weekend we got a reality check when the weather went back to more typical March temperatures (40's and even some snow this morning!). So I decided to go back to my big indoor project of the rainbow quilt. Getting it all laid out was quite the task (1008 squares and no definite plan for how they'd fit together...what was I thinking?!?). I had to shuffle the squares around a lot to get the stripes even and blending together nicely. And of course I hadn't cut quite enough squares, and of course I didn't have quite enough of one of the colors, so I had to go pick up one more fat quarter to fill in the gap. But all in all, I'm quite happy with the progress, and also with how much of my fabric stash I have been able to use in this project.

Anyhow, I did finally get it all laid out and have even started sewing! Yippee!! And in the process, little g is getting her first sewing lessons. She was very curious about my sewing machine and iron, and asked me all kinds of questions them, wondering how they worked. I guess it's time to find a simple sewing project for her to do and start learning some mad seamstress skills. But for now, she's happy to help line up the squares after I've sewn them together. It's nice having a little assistant!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Playroom Plans

I love having a playroom.  I pretty much knew from the get-go that we would be able to have a playroom for the girls in this house, and where it would be.  At some point in this house's history, an addition was put on the back.  So straight behind the kitchen is a little laundry area, off to the right is a bathroom, and off to the left is this extra room.  Perfect place for a playroom!

So here's a few pics of the playroom in its current state:

While the color of this room is not intolerable, as you can see, it is a bit drab for a kids playroom. I feel a playroom should be cheerful and vibrant and happy, not dull and muted. So we will definitely be painting it soon. I was talking with little g about painting and suggested we get creative and paint grassy hills and blue skies. She loved the idea, and thought we should add a rainbow on one wall.

So here's a couple of rough sketches of what I'm thinking:

As for the rainbow, we're still debating whether to paint the entire rainbow, or only include a section of it. I think we're leaning towards a section of it. What do you think?

I'm thinking we will probably paint all the trim white as well, but I haven't decided for sure yet.  And I'd love to put in a new ceiling fan/light fixture and new flooring, but I have to keep reminding myself: one thing at a thing at a time.  So for now, the next thing on the agenda will be deciding on the shades of blue and green.  Off to the paint store!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quilt Progress

So I'm a few weeks into the rainbow quilt project now, and I'm pretty excited about the progress I have made.  There have, of course, been some setbacks (there always are, aren't there?), for instance, not being able to find my rotary cutter.  I looked in every place I thought I would have packed it, and I kept finding all these extra blades and even a couple of blade sharpeners, but no cutter.  So eventually my sweet hubby just ordered me a new one.

Once I got my new cutter, I could get to work cutting all those squares (1008 to be exact).  Of course, being that I am trying to use up a bunch of scrap pieces of fabric, I didn't really have a definite plan of how many of each color I would need.  So I just kind of winged it and started cutting away.  And of course I didn't keep track of how many squares total I had cut (what fun would that be?!?), so I'm at a point where I need to start laying them all out to see where I stand.  So for now, here are the rainbow quilt squares:

Oh, and that missing rotary cutter?  I just found it in my box of thread.  :\

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Our Front Porch

When we first looked at our house last summer, one of the first things that I fell in love with was the front porch (seriously, the columns, the bench could you not??).  It's a beautiful porch, but it certainly has seen better days (note the dirty exterior and chipping paint).  We will definitely be needing to give it some love, but living in Maine, it's just a wee bit chilly to be doing much of that kind of work outdoors right now.   So as eager as I am to start sprucing up the front porch, I guess it will have to wait a bit longer until it's consistently well above freezing.  But I still wanted to share some photos of our lovely porch, so consider these the "before" pictures.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Redecorating Begins

We were pretty fortunate that when we moved into this house there weren't any redecorating projects that we felt we would need to do immediately.  Sure, some of the paint colors and wall paper wouldn't have been my first choice, but they certainly wouldn't have been my last choice either.  So it was nice to just move in and get settled before diving into redecorating.  But now that we are getting more settled, I'm itching to get started!

I promised little g that her room would be the first room we would do this spring.  Since we're still a ways off from being warm enough to open up the windows and paint (it was a balmy 42 degrees today), I've been thinking about bedding.  She recently saw a quilt I had made for someone, and was fascinated by it, so I decided that I should make her a new quilt for her new room.  In typical me fashion, I scoured the internet for some ideas (collecting them on a Pinboard, of course).  After first she had said she wanted a frog quilt, then she saw one with ladybugs and daisies that she liked a lot, but then she saw the rainbow quilt.  She got really excited and said, "I want that one!".  So rainbow quilt it is.

So I started digging through my fabric stash.  I didn't really have a proper workspace at our last house, so my art/craft/sewing supplies were scattered around (a few things in this closet, a few things in that closet, some in a corner here, some packed up in the basement, etc, etc).  Now that I have everything all in one spot, all I can say is wow.  I didn't quite realize how much stuff I had accumulated over the years.  After the initial shock, I was pleasantly surprised at how many fabrics I found that could work for this project (using up my stash and saving money...can't beat that!), and I had a pretty good start on a rainbow:

But it wasn't quite complete, so we headed to the fabric store to pick up a few more fat quarters to fill in the gaps:

So now we have this:

Now that I'm looking at the stack, I'm not sure if I'll keep that dark green in there or not.  Looks like it might stand out a bit too much.  But all in all, I'm pretty please with the rainbow.  Now to start cutting!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Inspiration and Visualization

I'm always scouring the internet for ideas and inspiration.  When I came across something I loved and wanted to remember, I would always bookmark it for later.  But even if I kept my bookmarks well organized (which I've been slacking on lately), it was hard for me to remember which bookmarks were for what, and why I bookmarked them, without clicking on every single one.  Then I found Pinterest.  What a fantastic site for visually oriented people like me!  If you're not familiar with Pinterest, it's basically a way for you to create online bulletin boards to "pin" all of your bookmarks to.  So I can see at a glance what I have "pinned", and therefore remember why I saved it, without having to actually open the link (brilliant!).

After getting my Pinterest account set up and familiarizing myself with how everything worked, I thought what better way to start collection inspiration for some of our home improvement and redecorating projects!  The biggest project we have coming up will be to paint the exterior of our house.  This is going to be a huge job, so I want to give a lot of thought to the color we choose.  To get some ideas, I started out (as I usually do) with a google image search.  I found some houses similar to ours that I liked, and made a pin board to collect them all in one spot, which makes it super easy to compare the different looks:

When I was doing the google image search, I also happened upon this post, from another blogger who needs to paint her old house too.  She had a found this great tool from Sherwin-Williams where you can try out different colors on your house without getting out a paintbrush.  It's called the color visualizer, and you can find it here.  I'll definitely be spending some time trying out colors on our house!  In the meantime, I'll also be searching and pinning away, like ideas for redecorating little g's bedroom, and inspiration for our someday kitchen remodel (it's never too early to start getting ideas, is it?).

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Home Improvement Project #1: New Dishwasher

When we bought this house, we knew that the dishwasher was broken.  Now, I realize that a dishwasher is not really a necessity, but after having lived with one for the past 7 years, it's definitely hard to go back to not having one.  So at the top of our list of home improvement projects was to get a new one.  Neither my husband or I have the time or the know-how to take on installing a dishwasher ourselves, so we opted to hire it out.  And I'm very glad we did!

When the installer arrived this morning and started trying to take out our old dishwasher, he hit a bit of a snag:  the ceramic tile was put down after the previous dishwasher was put in, so the floor was actually higher than the the dishwasher (ugh!).  But luckily, after much hard work on his part, he was able to tilt it up just enough to slide it out (whew!).  Installing the new one was a bit of a struggle as well, since the opening between the floor and counter top is shorter than it should be, but he did it (hooray!). 

Now to test it out on all those dirty dishes that have been piling up...