Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hot Wheels Pool Party for a big 5 year old!


My youngest has a summer birthday (mid July) which can make birthday parties a challenge, especially here in Phoenix with temperatures of 100+.  The other big challenge is picking a date where friends are in town since we all tend to try to get away from those hot hot temps!  Lets just say Phoenix in July is often very very empty.  
This year I got creative and borrowed a (really generous and kind!!) friend's pool and picked an earlier date before everyone left town.  My soon-to-be 5 year old chose a Hot Wheels theme (so so fun) and we made it a Hot Wheels Pool Party!

Since it was a pool party on a summer morning my prep was pretty easy, but I still wanted to make it fun and memorable.  



Theme- Hot Wheels/Pool Party

Food - Small cupcakes with checkered flag decorations.  The tiny cupcakes meant we didn't need napkins or plates and less waste from tiny people that only eat the frosting anyway (anyone else have a kid that does that?).  



The flags were made by cutting out checkered flag paper and putting glue on it (glue stick) then folding it around a toothpick.  Super easy!

I got a pink tray from the Dollar Store (daughter's color choice) and taped on a checkered flag/Hot Wheels sign that I made.  The "Hot Wheels" came from a car package.

Decorations - Balloons with a car/racing theme.  My daughter chose a BIG trophy balloon over the car options at the store but we added black and white balloons to bring in the car theme.  We anchored the balloons by tying them to larger (metal) cars.  Super big hit with the little ones!



I also had a few checkered signs, the party favor bucket and of course the tire pool floats were decorative too.



Games - We brought 5 tire themed pool floats (from the dollar store).  The kids did pool relays and swim races using the floats, so fun!  The prizes for the race winners/participants were to take one of the floats home.



I made my own checkered flag to start each race (my daughter's favorite part) by folding over a checkered flag paper and taping it to a paint brush.  Super easy!

We also did "diving" (jumping in) contests looking for the silliest, prettiest and biggest splash.  So fun!



Favors  - Each child got to chose a Hot Wheels car before going home.  I had a bucket filled with cars that had a sign on it saying "I Wheelie Like You, Thanks for coming".  I cut out a picture of a Hot Wheels car (from a Hot Wheels package) to add to the sign.




Easy and fun party!  I love that the theme was gender neutral and also worked for a variety of ages so friends and their siblings could come and have a good time.

My costs:

4 dozen (small) cupcakes = $14
6 helium balloons = $16
5 tire pool floats = $5
Misc decorations = $12
Hot Wheel Cars = $25 (I bought 25, can return the extras)

Total = $72



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Garage to Cottage Makeover


One of my very favorite places is a small seaside cottage on my parent's property.  I love Tiny Homes and this little vacation cottage is the perfect place for me to indulge in my tiny space fantasies. :)  Of course I only stay in this little piece of heaven for a week to 12 days at a time but it's perfection.

I just happen to be less than a week away from our next trip out there and I can't wait!!

The tiny little cottage used to be a single car garage, built by my grandfather in the 1940s.  It had space for one car and a workbench in the back.  Not a place to hang out and relax and I mostly remember it smelling of cats and dust. ;)

A few years ago my mom had the idea to turn it into a cottage and with the help of a skilled and talented contractor her vision of a Norwegian Cottage was born.  The garage was insulated, re-wired, completely changed inside with a loft, kitchen and bathroom.  A new porch was added and much larger (new) windows were put in.



The rockery next to the garage was added decades ago by my grandmother, and was a koi pond originally.  Later they changed it into a garden as which it still remains.


The cottage has a separate entrance for the water heater and electrical equipment.  The main entrance is in the front where the garage door used to be (to the right) and there is another exit out the back with a small porch. 

The tree in the photo is a very very old and rather prolific quince tree.  Last summer it had so many quince on it that it practically fell over with the weight.  My mom gave away over 200 lbs of fruit to lucky neighbors.


Inside my mother's Norwegian theme is seen in the use of white, pine and of course red.  She even included a Norwegian flag on the wall.

My mom decorated with a combination of family furniture, re purposed objects and new modern pieces.  The heirlooms and objects come from both sides of my parent's families.  Fortunately both sides had quite a bit of Norwegian, so no dueling cultures there!

For example, the folding leaf table shown above (behind the couch) was purchased by my maternal grandparents to furnish their first home in 1947.


One re purposed item is the old storage lockers that were on the property.  They were added to the family decades before when they were discarded after the local HS remodeled their locker rooms.  But their history goes even beyond that.  They were originally used in the Bremerton Naval Base before being passed on to the local HS and then my grandparents.  

A new coat of paint and a little TLC and they're as good as new. They offer both hanging closet space and shelves.

The living room has the combination of a new IKEA futon and bright red rug and also a coffee table crafted from one of the windows from the old garage.  Under the glass are doilies made by my grandmother, great grandmother and great great aunts.  Despite its fragility my girls have (*so far*) managed to avoid breaking it.  


The futon makes a comfortable bed and between it and the beds up in the loft the cottage comfortably sleeps up to 4.

The wall next to the bed has a beautiful frame with a map of Scandinavia and photos from my parents trip to Norway a few years back. The frame itself is made out of one of the original windows from the main house (added in the 1940 remodel and removed in the 1963 remodel).  

They had tried to keep the old house windows in the new design but unfortunately they were no longer weather proof so my mom simply re purposed them. 

 

The door above leads to the full bathroom.  To the left is the entry and to the right is the kitchen.  We were able to visit the cottage this last year at Christmas where you can see even the tree was decorated with Norwegian flags and designs. 


The ceiling fan and several windows help keep the cottage cool even in the heat of the summer (I laugh because WA heat is nothing like our AZ heat!!). 


The loft is accessed by a built-in solid wood ladder.  The loft has just enough space for two twin beds, a small window and a bedside table.  It is cozy and comfortable!


Looking down from the loft offers quite a view of the beautiful beams and treasures below.  I also enjoy peeking down at my girls from this view during the night.


Check out this early morning view of the sound in front of the cottage. Isn't it marvelous?  You can see why I love this property (and the dear people that live there) so very much.

For Part II of the tiny cottage (bathroom and kitchen) go here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Fisher Price Friday - Oh Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone


My youngest has a birthday coming up next month and I'm slowly collecting gifts to give her, some are of course vintage toys. :)  Now I'm not sure that we exactly need another Fisher Price Music Box Pocket radio...but they're so cute that it's hard to resist.

We already have the following pocket radio music boxes, but hey, what's one more?

Jack and Jill #722
Small World Pocket Radio #746
12 Days of Christmas Music Box #756
The Mulberry Bush pocket radio #758
Raindrops Pocket Radio #762
I Whistle A Happy Tune Pocket Radio #763
I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing #766



Now back to our newest addition, it's the #766 Oh Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone.  Made between 1968-1970 it was one of the earlier pocket radios made.  Interestingly it has the same toy number as the later #766 I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing, but this one came first!

Like the other pocket radios the box is made of plastic with a wooden back that is covered by lithographs.  It is carried by a white and orange vinyl strap. This case is a butter yellow with orange edges and details.  Mine is a bit worn out but not too bad for its almost 50 years!

The music box has pictures of an orange cat sitting on a fence with flowers bellow and clouds above on one side.  The other side has green grass, a green tree with fruit (and a small bird) and a flower.


The back has two children, a ginger boy and a raven haired girl who are looking for their dog (of course!).  They just need to look behind them because the spotted dog is nearby chasing a butterfly.

I love the colors on this box and my daughter will love the pink accents and of course the black and white dog that looks a little like ours. 

Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?

Oh where, Oh where
can he be?
With his ears cut short
and his tail cut long.
Oh where, Oh where,
can he be?



Even the bottom of the case has lithographs of beautiful colorful flowers.  I love the detail!




To see more of the photos going by as it plays check out the video below.



Thursday, June 23, 2016

My Magic Keeping It Cool Cup


I had to share the marvel that is my Starbucks cold cup insulated tumbler.  This thing is practically magic!

I live in Phoenix aka a oven where summer temps range from 90 - hell (125!!).  This week was no exception yet the mighty drink holder kept my drinks icy cold.  A-mazing!



For example yesterday I was running errands in and out of my car all morning.  When we left the house at 8am it was already 95 degrees outside, by 12:30 it was 110.  Yet at 12:30 after being in my hot van for 4.5 hrs my water was still cold.  I kid you not!

So if you live in a hot climate you must get this cup.

You're welcome!

And don't forget to bring it to Starbucks to get FREE refills!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Donut Dreams coming true

Remember when I was donut obsessed a couple weeks ago and had a donut float on my wish list?

Well dreams come true people!



Thanks to the lovely people at Amazon this beauty is now my new favorite place to be. :)  And with temperatures of up to 125 this week (!!!!) it arrived right in time.




Even the local fish wanted a bite (my youngest was in the fish float).

Summer on everyone, summer on!


To get your own donut float check out Amazon.  Mine was $19.99 and came with a free foot pump (that works slower than blowing it up yourself, ha!).  This one is on sale for only $16.99 if you want to skip the pump!


Friday, June 17, 2016

Fisher Price Friday - Closed for Camp


We're up north today picking up our oldest from her first time at sleep-away camp.  See you next week with more vintage FP toys!

To see more about the A-Frame #990 go here and here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tips and Hints to help Moms recover after Surgery (or bed rest)

A month ago I had a surgery that required me to take it really easy for a few weeks.  As a result of my recovery it was impossible to do my regular job, you know, parenting two kids and taking care of my household.

Fortunately for me I had a very capable and helpful husband, a mom who flew in to stay for a week and a few amazing friends who did SO much to make things run smoothly.  I also did quite a bit of preparation to make things easier for me (and my family) until I could get back to normal.  It's been 5 weeks now and I'm at about 90%!

I thought I'd pass along my favorite tips for recovering moms, or even for moms on bed rest.

Before surgery do shopping trips to fill your cupboards but also make special care to get items that are heavy (many procedures have weight lifting restriction for days/weeks after).  Things like dog food, bottled water, cat litter, bleach bottles/detergent, soda, etc.  Stock up your pantry and freezer with easy to make or ready made meals.

After surgery you can have these same heavy items as well as regular groceries delivered to your house with services like Safeway Grocery Delivery or Amazon Prime Now (both available in my area).  You can also use Drugstore.com or (regular) Amazon for basics like toilet paper, dog food and other must-haves.



We used Safeway Grocery Delivery two weeks after my surgery.  By that time our stocked up groceries had depleted and my mom had gone back home. ;)  We've been so happy with Safeway Delivery that we've had 2 more orders!  Not only are they super convenient but the delivery charge is very low (I paid $3.95 for my last two orders, the first time was FREE!).

Pros
They bring the groceries where you want.  We had ours brought all the way into the kitchen so I didn't have to lift a thing.
Delivery workers have been very courteous and kind, and you can't tip them, so they're just naturally that way.
Produce has been fresh, no complaints!


Cons
Some items are more expensive, especially produce.
They use dozens of plastic grocery bags (I normally use re-useable grocery bags).  

I normally enjoy grocery shopping so once I'm back to normal I'll probably return to my regular stores (especially to get FREE Starbucks refills!) but....one of the best things about grocery delivery is my cold/frozen items stay that way since they arrive in a freezer truck!  Living in Phoenix where the summer temps reach 120 this is huge.  There are months in the summer where I can't even try to purchase ice cream, it's just not possible to get home without melting.  So I might just keep getting deliveries for all things frozen until it cools down out there....sometime in November. ;)

Now moving on to other non-food helpful hints. :)

Bedroom/Bed rest Tips:

The first couple of weeks I spent most of the day in bed and I found ways to make it more comfortable and kid friendly.  Here is what worked for me.

For your bed/bedroom:

1. Make sure you have extra pillows and a Boppy if you still have one.  That pillow worked great to keep me more upright the first few nights!
2. Folding bed table tray - This was a lifesaver, I used it for my laptop, dinner tray and iPad (while watching shows).  My daughter also used it as a table to color on.
3. Lined Notebook Pad/Pen - Keep one on your bedside table to keep track of medications/times and other random notes.  Trust me, if you're taking enough meds you won't remember unless you write it down!
4. Water Pitcher - I took the pitcher from the hospital but you could use your own.  Hydration is super important and the easier it is to get water the better!
5. Last but not least - Snacks!  Fill up a bedside table drawer with snacks like saltine crackers, chocolates, protein bars, etc.  That way if you need food without getting up it's right there!  If you don't have drawers then try a shoe box next to the bed.

For your Kids:

Preparing ahead for the kids was key, since there were days where my little one (4 year old) would spend hours with me while I was resting/sleeping.  She's a great kid but I still did some prep to keep it interesting for her.  The upside is that my kids wanted to be in my room with me!



Before my surgery I bought a variety of special activity books (w/coloring pages, stickers, make your own book, etc) that they could only work on while in my room.  I included a bag of colored pencils (pens/crayons would have been messy on my white sheets!!) that stayed in the room with me.  

I also bought some new-to-them toys (vintage Fisher Price of course) that stayed in my bedroom (put away in a bottom drawer when not using).

Last but not least I had my mini iPad loaded up with kids apps, so if I absolutely needed to rest I'd give her my iPad/earphones and she was in heaven. :)

Those are my tips!  My family survived and thrived during my recovery and it went much more smoothly thanks to a little preparation and of course lots of help from friends and family!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Crockpot Crab and Corn Chowder (SOOOO easy)


It's heating up here in Phoenix, daily temperatures are now over 100 and up to 118.  Sigh.  So perhaps a hot soup may not be the first thing you'd think to make for a summertime dinner but if you use a crockpot you avoid cooking over a stove!  And hey, with A/C it's a comfortable 75 degrees in here anyway. :)  I picked this particular recipe to try last week because my oldest got braces put on and soup with soft veggies was just the thing she needed!

This easy soup is on the thinner/more broth like side (not thick) which is how my family prefers it.  If you like your chowder goopy/thick just add some cornstarch (2 Tbsp) towards the end.

Crockpot Crab and Corn Chowder

Ingredients
1 box of chicken broth (4 cups)
1/2 pound red potatoes, diced 
3 medium carrots, diced
1 medium-size onion, chopped 
2 ribs celery, diced 
1/2 teaspoon thyme (or fresh leaves,chopped) 
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 bag frozen corn (I used a 10 oz size)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced 
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
8-10oz (I used 1/2 a 16oz can) of crab meat

Directions
1. Combine chicken broth, potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, corn, red bell pepper, bay leaf and thyme in a large oval slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 6 hours. 
2. In a bowl (or 2 cup glass measuring cup), stir together heavy cream, milk and salt. 
3. Stir milk/cream mixture into slow cooker, replace cover and cook on LOW for 1 hour (or HIGH for 20-30 min) 
4. Stir crabmeat into soup about 20 min before serving. Serve warm.

For another seafood chowder check out my Salmon Cod and Corn Chowder recipe.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Fisher Price Friday - What's In My Pockets? A Surprise Cloth Book


Today I have a book to share, but this one is special.  What's in My Pockets #179 a Surprise Cloth Book for Girls was made from 1972-1974. This colorful cloth book has more than just sweet pictures; each page has an activity to practice zippers, velcro, snaps, etc. And if that wasn't enough excitement it comes with eight plastic coins to place in each of the pockets. 

 There were two versions of What's in my Pockets, this "girl" version and a boy version. The boy version is also cloth and came out a year before the girl version.




The eight coins have lithographs on each one showing a different object. They are red, yellow, blue and green. 

The coins pictured include: 

Red - Green Ribbon
Yellow - Doll
Red - Green Comb
Green - Ring
Blue - Hankie (so cute and pink w/lace)
Yellow - Key w/chain

There are two more coins that I haven't found yet but am still on the hunt for.  I am missing the ice cream cone (blue) and one with 3 coins (green).

The backs of the coins have the FP logo stamped inside with a texture around the letters and a raised rim. They are unlike any of the other much thicker Fisher Price coins that came with toys like the Cash Register.



The book is made of a heavy duty yet soft cotton material. The fabric is colorfast which is clearly working quite well as the colors are vivid despite its 40+ years! It is also listed as washable although I haven't been brave enough to give that a try! The front cover recommends that it is "FOR GIRLS Ages 2-6". 



Both of my girls have loved playing with these books although I continue to be reluctant to let my youngest play with them unless I'm close by.  The coins are super easy to get misplaced (trust me I keep finding them in odd places around my house) and man oh man they are hard to replace.  I've been looking for my 2 missing coins online for years and still haven't found them (for a price I'm willing to pay).

Now back to the book, it has 10 pages total with 8 of them having text written on them. 
PATCH POCKET
My patch pocket is just a patch
To make a handy pocket.
It can be used for many things
From hankies to a locket.

BUTTON POCKET
The pockets on my raincoat
Are made in a special way
To keep my treasures nice and dry
When out on a rainy day.


ZIPPER POCKET
When I stand upon my head
And throw myself about
The zipper keeps my pocket shut
Stops things from falling out.


SLASH POCKET
A place to keep my favorite toy
My comb and velvet bands
It's big enough to do all that
And warm my chilly hands.


This is my
STICKY POCKET
It sticks so nice and tight.
Can you tell me what is in it
Find out if you are right.


Check out the velcro on the little "purse".  Ours looks brand new!


This is my SNAP POCKET
It makes a happy, snappy sound
When you discover what it holds,
Tell me what you've found.


I can see it in the morning,
I can see it at bedtime too.
If my HIP POCKET
was in the front,
I could look in there with you.

(I love love this page, it's my favorite.  How cute is the little girl with her outfit and funny words?  I am also partial to hip/back pockets since my husband proposed by slipping an engagement ring into my back pocket).


I have a SECRET POCKET
For things I like to hide
Can you find my secret pocket
And what it has inside?



Here are the two What's in my Pockets? books.  For a closer look at What's in my POCKETS? A Surprise cloth book for boys #178 go here.