Holiday & Entertaining

Clara’s “Pink & Gold Everything” Party

This weekend our deck was full of people we love, gathered to celebrate this four year old bean of ours. It was pretty awesome to have so much connected outdoor space to party on (the sunroom-turned-veranda and our big deck that overlooks the grassy backyard felt less chopped up than having some people in the last house’s sunroom while others were on our two-tiered patio). And since our previous house is where we’ve hosted every other Clara-birthday since she was born (here’s the post about her first birthday, the one about her second one, and the one about her third) it felt both weird and wonderful to have our first big birthday gathering here. Most importantly, this girl had a blast.

We usually do a little party prep post before the big “after the event” rundown (like this one, this one, and this one) which is where we share details like her invitation, but this time we figured we’d toss everything into this full-monty post and call it good. This is the invitation that we sent out to friends and relatives after Clara decided she wanted her party to be “all full of pink and gold everything… with glitter.”

But the theme wasn’t “pink and gold with glitter” for long – it kept evolving. The description quickly morphed to include nearly everything in her world. Soon Clara was calling it a “pink and gold flamingo, fairy, princess, lego, glitter, flower, cupcake, pez, castle, polka dot, treasure, bubble, water party” – which we shortened to her “pink and gold everything party” since it included everything but the kitchen sink.

It was fun to embrace all the things she loves. We pulled out existing items that fit the theme (like old paper lanterns and floral tablecloths from parties past) as well as grabbing some fun new items that tied in (like a few dollar store flamingos, some gold tinsel to make a glittery table runner, and some polka dotted balloons from Target).

For added seating in our not-really-furnished-yet former sunroom, we brought out an old pedestal table and our wicker dining chairs (they’re actually outdoor chairs, so they worked really well) as well as breaking out some fun stuff for the kids like our water table (and the one we borrowed from Grammy and Tom-Tom) as well as a bunch of toys, bubbles, and even the sprinkler for down on the grass.

We’re so grateful for the weather. It was sunny and warm enough for the kids to play with water in the sun, but nice and cool in the shade (we didn’t even turn on the fans!).

We kept the food casual as usual, with some pink and gold favorites like watermelon, chicken nuggets, sliced peppers, caramel corn, chips & salsa, as well as a few pizzas since they’re always a crowd pleaser.

We even worked in some grocery store blooms and a few gold mason jars (from JoAnn) full of pink & gold twizzlers.

These little flamingo glasses were dollar store finds, and the chocolate coins and pink jelly beans were pretty much gone before the pizza was even touched.

We also grabbed five flamingo stick-balloons at the dollar store (who knew they were such a treasure trove of flamingo memorabilia?) that we stuck into the the potted ferns around the deck. Kids loved them so much they asked to take them home at the end of the party.

Easily the most exciting thing were the cupcakes, which were made by our sweet friend Justine. After we had Teddy she asked if she could bring us a meal and we kept saying “you’re too kind, but we’re all set – seriously our freezer is full” which somehow turned into her offering to make cupcakes for the party (she loves to bake, and her stuff is so delicious we couldn’t resist). She fully embraced the pink-and-gold-fairy-princess-lego-castle-glitter-etc theme and made adorable toppers for each cupcake, including a few “fairy Clara” toppers with her face on a glittery winged body along with everything from a lego head to a pink glittered castle. There was an audible “oooh!” when we brought them all out.

Here’s one of “Queen Clara” wearing a big dress (girl loves a big dress, especially of the pink and gold variety). Justine seriously went above and beyond.

Later when we asked Clara to name her five favorite parts of the party, the very first thing she said was “MY CUPCAKES!” (which oddly enough was followed by “when Sam hit me in the face with the beach ball”).

Everyone hung out on the deck and ate and played with the water tables for the first half of the party (there were around a dozen kids and twenty adults) and then some of the kids started funneling down to the grass to play with things like the sprinkler and the bubbles.

First we set up a little bubble blower…

… and then John broke out the giant bubble maker, which had everyone in awe of his skills. Until several kids made bigger bubbles than this on the first try.

The sprinkler was especially funny to watch since it was a bunch of kids standing around filling various cups and containers with water.

The water tables were also pretty constantly in use, so it was nice to have a few “stations” for kid activities while the adults chatted nearby without anyone being out of eyeshot.

Teddy didn’t get in on the water table, bubble, or sprinkler action, but he did woo his fair share of party-goers. Here’s John’s mom in her flamingo headband. Gotta love a lady who commits to a party wholeheartedly.

We kept the favors pretty simple too. Since one of the things in Clara’s longest-party-name-ever was “Pez” I found some dispensers at the dollar store for these pink & gold containers (30 cents each from Target) and tossed in a few other treats.

We also bought this pinata from Target but almost forgot to break it out. Some folks had already left when we ran in and got it, but the lingering crew had a ton of fun with it. Check out Louie with his gold chain and sunglasses on the right. Dude had moves.

It took about 100 swings, but it finally exploded and the kids scrambled to grab as much as they could.

As is the tradition, we also took a family photo, which is a pretty rare event for us (one of us is always holding the camera). In this case it ended up being even more momentous than usual since it’s the first photo of all four of us. Only took us a month…

Can we just pause for a second to soak up little Teddy. He’s so sweet I could eat him. But I won’t. And don’t even get me started on that little lady in John’s arms. When did she get so big? I tell her she’s not allowed to grow anymore but she just doesn’t listen.

Did you guys have any gatherings this weekend? Have you ever thrown a bunch of parties at one house over the years and then moved and marveled/feared making a new place work? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a house never feels homier than it does when it’s full of the people you love. In some ways even though we’ve almost lived here a year (how did that happen?!) this house didn’t fully feel “broken in” until Saturday. Just looking around seeing everyone out on the deck and our kids running around in the grass… well, it was pretty great. Even if there were giant piles of laundry lurking inside.



Christmas Gifts & Other Good Stuff

Today we’re wrapping up our annual pair of “Christmas present” posts (the first was yesterday’s rundown on what we made Clara) with this summary of what else we unwrapped and how we spent the day, like this one and this one of yore. Think of it as our way of trying to cling to the holiday season for one more day while answering all of those “what did you get each other?” and “what else did Clara get?” questions. Meanwhile, in quick kitchen update news, we’re knee-deep into staining the lower cabinets, which means the room is a complete disaster, but it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas progress.

The doors/drawers/frames have been sanded, deglossed, stained, sanded, and stained again – so we’re just waiting for them to be dry enough to rehang. That should happen this weekend, which means we can share all the photos and details with you on Monday (in case you missed it, we revealed our painted upper cabinets a few days ago). But back to our tree on Christmas morning.

Clara was more excited this year than any other year before – even waking up about 10 minutes after going to bed the night before and declaring that it was the morning already. I was more excited too, because for the first time I could recreate a family tradition of mine growing up: sitting on the steps for a photo before sprinting down to rip through some wrapping paper. We can’t wait to accumulate years of pictures like these… especially since next year Clara won’t be sitting alone!

Clara was an unwrapping tornado. Many of the presents under the tree were sent from relatives (or were our gifts to others that we’d be delivering later in the day), but I was grateful that there were also a bunch of wrapped (not bagged) gifts for Clara so that we could witness her having those exciting moments where you get enough paper off to finally see what’s inside. Here she is actively shouting “oh wow, man!”

We won’t bore you with everything this little lady made off with, but there are some highlights – like these two Cinderella mouse ornaments from my parents, which were mine as a kid.

These were a surprise favorite (my mom worried she wouldn’t even notice them among all the other bigger and newer toys that shared the same package) but Clara was HUGE fan. She even gave them a giant hug before running right over to find the perfect spot for them on the tree.

The main gift from Santa (not to burst anyone’s bubble, but it was really from us) was the “ballerina princess doll” that Clara had been telling various Santas, relatives, and friends about all season. It’s a Gotz doll from Pottery Barn Kids and she spotted it weeks ago when we were in there picking something up for someone else. If you’d like a mental picture, her eyes locked and she saw hearts. Despite our original “she’ll probably forget all about it by the time Christmas rolls around” thoughts, she was still talking about it weeks later. So Santa delivered.

We decided it would be our one “splurge” gift for the year, and after a nice pre-Christmas sale and using an old Pottery Barn gift card, it ended up not being that bad. Honestly, even at full price it would’ve been worth it considering how much she loves this thing. “Melinda” even came to Burger’s annual check-up and to a neighborhood New Year’s party with us this week.

Some people have asked about our family’s take on the Santa tradition. Both Sherry and I both got some gifts from Santa and some from our parents or other relatives, so that’s what we do with Clara.  Since she specifically asked Santa for her the little ballerina – well, Ole St. Nick got the glory for that one. But otherwise we try to give credit where credit is due, like this one that came from Nonna…

…and stuck with the theme of ballerinas. It was like tutu heaven for Clara. She named her “Spaghetti Hair.”

She got other things like books, games, stickers, and clothes, and we gave her a stocking with some socks, PJs, and Pez – which, by some miracle, were all met with equal levels of excitement.

We also did the traditional “you get to open a few smaller gifts on Christmas Eve” thing, and miraculously got this shot with Sherry’s iPhone, which completely captures her joy. As some of you noticed in yesterday’s post, there was a two-pajama-rotation (Clara wanted to wear her Santa ones and her new reindeer ones, so she put these on in the late afternoon, and then changed into her reindeer ones right before bed so she could wake up on Christmas morning in them).

We didn’t get all of the gift-opening action on tape (or even capture it all on our cameras) but here’s a culled down version of the short video that we like to take each Christmas morning, which is mostly just Clara discovering her cubby shelf and hypothesizing about where Santa is at the moment. The bump-kiss is my favorite part.

And we can’t forget about Burger. He made his way out of bed about 5 hours earlier than usual, which earned him a few Christmas treats (literally) from us. He also scored a paw print “Feliz Navi-dog” ornament from my godmother Gerrie, who’s always great about remembering furry family members.

Sherry got me a fun soda-themed gift (she knows me well) complete with four unusual bottled sodas like chai cola, chocolate soda, and ginger cola.

Here’s my soda-tastic spread, which also included some themed candy as well (Bottlecaps are my favorite). I haven’t tried all of the sodas yet, but so far the best was the “Dog Drool” one, which was actually orange lemon flavored.

Sherry also got me this big pop-out reflector/screen that I had been eying to (hopefully) help boost my photography skills. I’ve seen how they come in handy to all of the pro photographers we’ve encountered in this job, and I finally figured it’d be worth having one around – you know, to help bounce/block/diffuse light. It collapses and has a few covers that zip on and off so I’m still getting the hang of it.

Since Sherry’s love for white ceramics is undying, I got her this set of porcelain ornaments from Crate & Barrel.

And since jewelry is a close second to her ceramic obsession, I plucked these two items from some strong hints that she dropped (Pinterest, and this gift round up). The arrow necklace is from Madewell and the love bracelet is from Anthropologie, which she liked because it reminded her of the “love” script on the cover of our book.

After all of our unwrapping was done on Christmas morning (and we downed some quick breakfast), we drove about 45 minutes west to meet up with the rest of my family at a nearby cabin we had rented for the night. You may have seen us Instagram a picture of it that afternoon.

We only stayed for about 24 hours, but it was awesome! We took a ton of pictures so we’re going to post a Cabin Crashing of it next week, but here’s a sneak preview.

I think we’re going to officially wrap-up the holiday season at our house this weekend – i.e. take down decorations and the tree. But we did snap a couple better-late-than-never seasonal pictures, since this will likely be the last time we can take a photo like this in front of the tree.

Kinda crazy to think that this was our last Christmas with just one little one (well, two including Burger – and about 30 if you count all of Sherry’s ceramic animals). What’s even crazier is that Clara stood still enough for this long of an exposure!

What did you guys wrap and unwrap this year? Do you do big gift exchanges with your other half, or just little fun things that you’ve been eying? Sherry and I like to keep it pretty low key, but we love hearing about giant surprises (were there any bows on any cars in any driveways?) and little thoughtful things alike.


As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winner, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by kschrav by TomRob
by Maria_OurLakeLife by afnhendrickx