Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Chocolate Party - the action

Chocolate. Soft, sweet chocolate. Something little brother loves dearly. Which could be a reason we decided early on that this year we were going to throw him a chocolate party (the other reason being that this was the perfect excuse to go buy a chocolate fountain. Please don't tell anyone though).

Of course I took way too many photos. And of course there are quite a few I forgot to take or simply didn't have my hands free enough (or clean enough...) to hold a camera. Oh well. I took plenty of photos of some of the preparations, which you can read about here.

So here we go.

Decorations included giant yellow doggie balloons. Because birthday balloons are a very serious tradition around here. Very serious. Since these things can get expensive (especially when you need two, because tradition dictates that the sibling gets one as well, making it four of these per year) I save all the old ones once they finally go flat. One of the most popular ones ever was big brother's giant dog balloon, and since I was overworked, tired and a little tight on budget I couldn't find the perfect chocolate party balloon, I decided that the yellow dog would be just fine, after all they loved it (and it matched the party colors), so I just got him filled up again and bought him a companion. Don't they look happy together?

We had added the garlands earlier in the week, but I felt the urgent need for some simple streamers on the party day. We removed the rug, put down old bath towels and placed our two kid picnic tables from the backyard in the living room play area, hoping that this would keep the chocolate mess in kids reach and away from my white dining room chairs. So the streamers ended up forming a nice canopy.

They also played nicely with the garland and the goodie bags in the background. Yes, I admit to standing in this spot for a full five minutes, admiring my decorations. Yes, I know I am insane. But I just love it when something works as planned. What can I say.

The birthday boy with his crown - same one from last year with a quickly added 4 to it. And no, I didn't dress him to match the crown - I simply figured that the chocolate stains would show the least on a brown sweater... 

I usually refuse to buy strawberries when they're not in season and not grown locally. My kids know that, so they were beyond thrilled when they saw me prepare strawberries for the chocolate fountain. After all, birthdays are supposed to be special occasions, right? So strawberries in winter it was. We also had cookies, blueberries, grapes and bananas.

Since big brother suddenly got a rash and a fever literally five minutes before the party, the first part was a little hectic and I didn't get too many photos of little brother and his guests and gifts. He got the cutest things ever and had so much fun opening all his presents.

When everyone had arrived and played for a bit, we started the chocolate fountain. It works really well and does not get hot at all, so the kids can just enjoy it. The bananas, strawberries and cookies were the biggest hits. I guess you could also do marshmallows, but they aren't popular over here and as far as I am concerned, we had enough sugar already.

With all the sweet things, our prepared milk glasses were refilled quite a bit. I had snipped a few inches off some regular plastic straws, which were apparently great for making milk bubbles.

Here's a shot of the party tables - not as messy as expected, really. Of course we had chocolate mouths and fingers and drips on plates and some shirts, but it was all easily cleaned up.

The birthday boy couldn't get enough!

Now this is where my lack of photos comes in. With big brother at the emergency clinic and a chocolate fountain to clean up, other guests to entertain, I never really managed to get photos of our simple dinner that we served before guests left. I had prepared sandwiches with a large star cutter, and we set out some leftover grapes - oh, and fancy little paper umbrellas never hurt anyone, either (unless you'd poke someone in the eye which luckily nobody did). The sandwiches were prepared ahead and just eaten on the run, they were just too busy playing to be sitting down for long.

Overall it was a fun party, we just wish big brother could have been part of it. He was ok when he returned from the doc though, and although most guests were just leaving, our neighbors stayed for some real dinner and he got to play with their kids for a bit.

We have since done the chocolate fountain thing in little brother's preschool as well -  and I'm sure it wasn't the last time!

So if you'll excuse me now, I have a sudden craving for something sweet, no idea where that might come from...


Sunday, March 10, 2013

{the simple things} brightness


That's basically all I can say.


I hear someone call "Mommy? Mommy! M-o-m-m-y!" what feels like every five seconds. The cats follow me around the house, meowing. There are dust bunnies having parties under my couch, and a laundry mountain that laughs at me because there seems to be no way to conquer it today. But I will. Still, I get so tired of it sometimes.

I fell asleep on the couch at 7:30pm on Friday, after having raced to the pediatrician right after picking up big brother from school and hearing from our neighbor that her kids have scarlet fever. And they all shared the chocolate fountain last weekend. Luckily although my kids have been sick for two weeks and we've had our share of sore throats, fevers and midnight barf, it was not scarlet fever. And they are much better now and have started to eat like normal again. Which also means they have their energy back.

Yesterday I took my husband to the emergency clinic. His throat is so sore he can't swallow, and his fever won't go down.

Outside it started to get gray and rainy again. Temperatures are supposed to drop further today and it's supposed to start snowing again. Can you believe that? Snow. Again.

Oh, and I have to get to work tomorrow, for a long, long day no less.

It seems for every thing I take care of, there are five more screaming for my attention.

And although I don't get it all done, it's the little things I do get done, that make my day. I am still exhausted, but I feel better for the simple things. Like a clean kitchen. Folded laundry. A birthday gift made for a good friend. Taking both kids to swimming lessons. Making tea from sage that grows in my own backyard.

And these simple little bursts of brightness: A bowl of clementines...

...and some daffodils.

Both bought quickly on the run, at a discount store I don't usually shop at. But Tuesday after guitar practice little brother started to have a meltdown, so we just quickly grabbed a few things since it was on our way. At the checkout I noticed the daffodils - tiny, cheap little bunches, sold as they were, not even standing in water. I bought one anyway, and put it in a mug with water while making dinner, prepping school lunch and trying to keep little brother from screaming.

Not even two days later, I had this burst of bright yellow abundance in my kitchen.

I got some more daffodils yesterday, and they already started to blossom.

Maybe it's just me, but even when I'm exhausted and everyone is sick, the rest of the house a mess and it's cold and rainy outside - some bright yellow daffodils and orange clementines on my clean and uncluttered kitchen counters make all the difference.

Linking with Rebecca's simple things sunday today.

Happy Sunday

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Chocolate Party - the preparations

Anyone who knows little brother will know that chocolate is one of his favorite things in the whole world. Well, cars, keys, phones, anything with buttons to push.  And chocolate.

It's funny when I hear parents of just one child talk about how well their kid eats and all these great things they did and how they pay attention to what the feed their child. Yeah... been there. Done that. And big brother will try and eat pretty much anything, he doesn't eat a whole lot of sweets and prefers a strawberry over a piece of chocolate at any given point. Little brother on the other hand... well. He likes pasta, but only with butter please. And bread, but preferably with a certain kind of cheese, or maybe honey. In short, he's an extremely picky eater, and I have no idea where he got that from.

But birthdays are supposed to be about favorite things, right?

And chocolate is one of little brother's favorite things. So a chocolate party it had to be. As long as I can still get away with things like puppy parties and such, I will take advantage of it. Sooner or later they'll just roll their eyes and tell me what they think is cool. But we're not there yet.

Also one of my new years's resolutions for this year is to keep it simple, meaning the goal was to try and use things we had on hand or that would really make sense to purchase. That meant no cute small glass milk bottles. No paper straws in matching colors. Instead we used small glass, dipped them into chocolate and sprinkles, and at the party added milk and some very basic very normal and very plastic straws that were cut a little shorter to match the tiny glasses. The kids loved it, even without fancy paper straws.

Surfing around the Internet one evening (and admittedly looking at paper straws and such), I found this cool phone wallpaper  of a cat looking at a pot of chocolate. And it was yellow, sort of, which is his favorite color. And did I mention it featured a cat?

For invites we ended up using that and just stapled it to a paper bag filled with some chocolate-on-a-stick we had left over from Christmas, figuring it was still winter and cold enough for some hot chocolate.

We originally wanted to do individual chocolate fondues, but my trial run was a total failure. The small tea lights heat them so much that the chocolate scorches instead of just melting. So it had to be Plan B - a chocolate fountain. Seven kids and a chocolate fountain, hmmmmm.... it did actually go pretty well, but I haven't managed to sort through the pictures from the party yet.

Decorations were pretty simple, too. I was going to make dot paper garlands in sprinkle colors, but I don't have a large circle punch and was determined to not use the party to buy more craft supplies (does that sound familiar to anyone or is just me who suddenly thinks she needs paper straws and circle punches and all these things?). Instead, I used paper I had on hand in yellow (of course), brown, red and white and my trusted star punch and my sewing machine to make star garlands. The day of the party we added some balloons and streamers, but the star garlands were hung the week before the party.

Since I had my sewing machine out anyway and this could be prepared well in advance, I used some felt left over from making last year's lion costumes and sewed a simple felt chocolate. Most of our guests are still young enough to have a play kitchen and/or play store, so I figured they could use it. It's also pretty simple to make. After making a couple of them, I came up with this technique: cut out a felt square, sew around three sides, stuff it (I usually use cheap Ikea pillows for that) while the needle is still in the felt (can you tell I am lazy?), sew it closed. Measure, then sew down the center of the long side. Measure again and sew down twice the shorter side, dividing it in thirds. Done.

I also found two small books about chocolate and threw in a car shaped eraser and a party blower for good measure. As usual, our favor bags were simple kraft paper bags, the names clipped on with wooden pins. Doesn't get easier than that!

Oh, and we made use of a small chocolate bar mold I've had around, adding melted chocolate and some sprinkles, wrapping the finished bars in cellophane.

Currently both kids are sick and at home, so I can't make any promises on when I'll manage to post some actual party pics. But I can say they had a blast, even though little brother wasn't in the best mood all morning and big brother had to make a trip to the ER with daddy right during the party (turned out just to be a fever and a case of hives). Sigh. I am so ready for Spring and the end of this long, long and sick winter season... But the sun is out today and it's supposed to be really nice. 

Can't wait!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

{the simple things} guitar practice

When big brother was two years old, the Easter bunny got him a guitar. A light blue, wooden toy guitar. He loved it. Like any good rock star, his guitar didn't last all that long. So the next year the Easter bunny came back, this time with the smallest size of a "real" guitar he could find.

He has been playing with it ever since, and this year we finally ended up getting him enrolled in guitar lessons. I have no idea where he got his love of music from - sports and music are two things I am an absolute failure at. But then again, my boys didn't get too much from their mommy, anyway.

He's had weekly lessons for a couple of weeks now, and he does practice most days. He will protest when you ask him to practice, mind you. But once he actually puts down what he was doing and gets his guitar, he enjoys it.

He's a little bit frustrated with the fact that he has to start learning the basics, he'd much rather learn chords and play all his favorite songs (current play list includes I can see clearly now, Let her go and anything by Eric Clapton, preferably Layla). But he does keep practicing, and I love that he found something to enjoy. He's not someone who's great at team sports and he doesn't like the fact that all his friends play soccer. Playing the guitar or going fishing with daddy is so much more like him.

Speaking of daddy - well, after taking big brother to his lessons once or twice, he too caught the guitar bug and started to take lessons. Now they practice together a few times a week, especially on Sundays. Can't wait for them to be able to play on long summer nights!

I have a feeling the Easter bunny will have to be bringing a bigger guitar this year... 

Linking up with the simple things sunday.

Happy Sunday everyone!