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Frugal/ FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ HOME/ Kids/Family/ Simplifying

A Super Simple Yet Special Birthday

That sweet little face is my middle girl back when she was 9.  Last week she turned 11!  Where or where has the time gone?
We usually budget in birthday parties for our 3 girls.  I love a good party and an excuse to have one.  We usually do not buy our kids birthday gifts, as grandparents are amazingly generous so our kids get plenty of gifts, and we consider a birthday party their gift.  This year, my little 11-year-old-to-be asked “Mom, if I save my money for a new Kindle Fire will you pay for half of it?”  I told her that we would, but we would have to use the money we usually set aside for a party.  She like this idea, she thought it was totally worth it.  She saved her money, and is LOVING her new Kindle Fire,
Her birthday was last week, and I wanted to do something to make her feel special on her day, despite not having a big birthday party.  At the end of the day, she said “Mom, this was one of the best birthdays ever.” Success!
Here is what her day entailed:
She woke up to a sea of pink balloons on her floor.  I was sneaky the night before and when I peaked in her room in the morning, she was laying in bed, hitting one pink balloon in the air with the biggest, best birthday girl smile on her face.  She loved it and just giggled at me. That was so worth the 2.00 dollars I spent on balloons and the fact that I almost passed out blowing them up!  I got this great idea from my Pinterest Parties Board. 

Once my birthday girl was up, she was greeted by her favorite breakfast.  We call it “Toad In A Hole”–so appetizing, huh?  It really is good.  I wanted to make it extra special so I made it pretty with a flower cookie cutter and sliced fruit. 
{our usual “toad in a hole”}

{flower cookie cutter} 
{special birthday breakkie!}

She loved her special breakfast.  She also loved that I had to pick her up early from school to take her to a quick doctor checkup for a knee injury that is now healed. He gave her a GREAT birthday gift, telling her she could participate in P.E.  After sitting out since October, this was awesome news. 

 I had some returns to make at the mall, so she came with, and as we walked by the soft pretzel stand at the mall we both took a whiff and of course had to get one!  Getting out of school early and a couple buck pretzel made her feel very special.

In the meantime, little sister got home from school and I left her instructions to frost some cupcakes that I had baked earlier.  I used the same mix cake mix and frosting mix that I use in my Gooey Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes.  I knew little sister would LOVE getting to help, and I also knew I would come home to cupcakes that would be drenched in decorating sugar.  I was right!

Little sister also took time to make super cute and creative homemade party hats.  Loved!

{my youngest, laughing at me wearing her hat creation while doing a birthday jig}

I sent a quick text to the neighbor girls mom, and she agreed to let her 2 girls come over for some birthday cupcakes and…

..a hot chocolate bar!  Another idea from Pinterest, but we kept ours very simple.  The girls had caramel candy sticks to stir their hot chocolate.  They melted quickly into the hot chocolate and gave it a caramel-ly flavor.  Fun!

{my oldest, enjoying her caramel stick}
I took a few balloons from the sea of pink in her bedroom and taped them on the wall.  I wanted to copy the below idea also found on Pinterest, but kept it simple instead.

{great idea from Martha Stewart.  Could put a dollar bill in each balloon!}

{my oldest, enjoying her cupcake}

It was great fun, and actually felt like a party even though it really was not, (not like our usual birthday parties) and my sweet girl felt very loved on her birthday.  It goes to show that simple, cheap touches are enough!

FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ How-Tos/ RECIPES

How To Feed A Large Crowd Without Cooking Or Baking

Need to feed a large crowd of people but don’t want to turn on the oven?
Want to have a party without showing up exhausted from cooking? 
Do you want to know how to create a lite and healthy, well-rounded meal without spending much time in the kitchen?

Well, this post will tell you how. Actually, it will tell you how my sisters and I did it. A week ago today, we threw my youngest sister a baby shower.  We had about 20 people coming, and we wanted to have a beautiful array of food, but did not want to spend much time making it all.  My youngest sister was only in town for a few days, so we didn’t want anything to keep us from spending as much time with her as we could, and we were not interested in hanging out in a hot kitchen for that spent time!
Our solution was to make our own Hearty, Healthy & Delicious 

We wanted it to be hearty enough to pass for dinner, so we made sure we included toppings that were filling and hearty– protein and carbs along with typical vegetable toppings and fruit.  Some of our protein toppings included shredded chicken, bacon, cheese and nuts. (could also use hard boiled eggs and beans.)  For carbs, we included whole-wheat mini bow-tie pasta noodles, and served bread along with the salad.

{that is my sisters hand, don’t you like her funky green nail polish?
I’m so bummed I didn’t get good pics.  My camera quit on me right at the beginning of the shower}

So how to do this without slaving over a stove/oven? 

Here is what you do:

~Make a grocery list of salad toppings (the ones we used are listed below)

~Go to Wal-mart, buy ingredients for toppings.

~Stop by Sam’s Club (which is usually right next door to Wal-mart) and pick up a few Rotisserie Chickens and their Spring Salad Mix.

~Swing by Panera Bread (or any bread store/bakery), and pick up a few loaves of Asiago Cheese Bread.

~Hit your local dollar store for paper products.
*I went to the dollar tree and found clear, hard plastic bowls that were the perfect size for our toppings.  I knew all the colors of the vegetables and toppings we used would make art on the buffet bar if we used clear bowls.  They also had large, clear hard plastic bowls, so I bought 3.  One for punch, one for the spring salad mix, and one to hold sliced bread.
I was delighted that they had small, clear serving tongs, 4/$1.00!  They also had a punch ladle and small, clear punch cups.  I found little coffee stirrer type straws, they were blue and white (matched our shower colors) and were the perfect size for the punch cups.  

Once you have all your supplies, it is just a matter of chopping and putting the toppings into Ziplocs until ready to use. We kept chopping to a minimum by buying veggies that were conveniently packaged, for example-shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, shredded cheese, heat and serve bacon.  Convenience was the way to go to keep it simple enough to get it all done and enjoy my sister!

Our Menu:
Hearty, Healthy & Delicious Salad Bar With A Trio Of Salad Dressings
Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Cute Cupcake Toppers
Lemon Refresher Punch-I may be posting about this, gotta find out if it is a “secret” family recipe or not:)

That’s it!  Simple, Simple, Simple.

The Lemon Refresher and Cupcakes can both be made the night before, which again, helps with simplifying.  We were going to make homemade dressings, but then decided to buy it instead. We stood in front of the dressing aisle, a bit stunned by all the different types of salad dressings.  We choose Briannas Fine Salad Dressings, mostly because the bottles were pretty:) but also because they had 3 different types that we thought would suit most tastes.  We got Poppy Seed (my favorite and the most popular of the evening), Blush Wine Vinaigrette, and Caesar.

This Salad Bar idea would be great for groups large or small, and even though we went a bit crazy with the number of toppings, you really could minimize that, too. The feedback we got from those attending the shower was all positive.  We even had a number of children there, and they loved it too!  Yes, there were lots of vegetables, but there was also a lot of fruit, shredded chicken, pasta noodles and cheesy bread, which kept the kids happy and satisfied.  

I will be doing this often, whether it is for a ladies luncheon, a bridal or baby shower, or just having another couple over-it would work well in many situations.  I do love to cook and bake, but sometimes it is just nice to just have a break and keep the oven off!

Our Salad Bar:
Spring Mix Salad
3 Dressings
Shredded Rotisserie Chicken
Chopped Bacon 
Whole-Wheat Bow-Tie Pasta
Sliced Strawberries
Mandarin Oranges
Dried Cranberries
Green Peppers
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Feta Cheese
Sunflower Seeds
Sliced Almonds
Asiago Cheese Bread

*** I Am Pleased To Be Linking Up To These Wonderful Blog Parties. *** 

This post is linked to:

Friday Favorites @ Simply Sweet Home
Saturday Is Crafty Day @ Along For The Ride
Weekend Wrapup Party @ Tatertots & Jellow
Saturday Night Special @ Funky Junk
Tasty Tuesdays @ Beauty & Bedlam
FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties

Making Tissue Pom-Poms

Thursday we threw a baby shower for my little sister.  We had lots of fun planning it, it was just so great to see family and to watch my little sis get showered with love and gifts.

{shower decorations ready to be placed}

We kept the decor simple.  Blue, white and brown were the colors.  We (my sisters, mom & I) handmade all the decorations, and were pleased with the final result and the final cost of it all!

{lrg poms hanging, med poms on table, small flower poms in the can}

The main decor were tissue pom-poms.  We made large ones to hang from the ceiling, medium ones to sit around in various places, and small ones with a wire stem that were stuck in cans as tissue pom flowers.

{inspirational pic, source unknown}

I’ve seem this tissue pom idea all over the web, made popular again by the great Martha Stewart.  She sells kits to make them at Michael’s Craft Stores.  You still have to do the work of separating the tissue when you buy her kits, so she is charging a bundle to do the easiest part for you.  Thankfully she is gracious enough to put a “how-to” on her website, which is where I went for directions.  Destri @ The Mother Huddle also featured a great tutorial on her site.

{inspirational pic, source-Martha Stewart}
  Wal-mart had the blue and brown colored tissue that I needed, it was 97 cents per package.  The large poms were under a dollar to make, & I could make at least 10-12 smaller poms for a dollar.  Can’t beat that price!

{inspirational pic, source unknown}

These poms are ideal for all types of situations.  I have a friend whose sister is using them as decoration for her wedding.  I have a sister-in-law who hung them in her daughters room & they are just darling!  They are perfect for baby showers, wedding showers, birthday parties and tea parties.  They are so inexpensive and easy to make! As you can tell, I am a big fan of the tissue pom.

*I have more baby shower related posts to come!  One on the yummy Lemon Refresher recipe we served, and another on “how to feed 20 people a well rounded meal without using your stove or oven!” (and no, it was not catered)  Stay tuned!:)

The Girl Creative