Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! If you don't celebrate Christmas, please have a happy holiday, great season, and/or fantastic day!

There are only three more sleeps 'til Christmas, so today I'm going to steer this blog post down a bit of a religious path, and share a prayer I wrote.

A Christmas Eve Prayer
By Phyllis Ho

We've done what we could, and tomorrow's the day.
So I'll take this moment to kneel down and pray.

Thank you Lord, for songs full of joy.
Thank you for each sweet girl and sweet boy.

I have burns from the cookies and cuts from the cards,
And I still feel jealous of those decked out yards.
I meant to do more, I hope this is enough.
My life is so blessed, but it can still be rough.

Thank you for family, craziness and all.
Thank you for snowfall following the fall.

I know I got frustrated, and even mad,
When Christmas shopping stressed me out bad.
But I know the loud crowds and the lines lasting miles
Will be worth all the world when I see my kids' smiles.

Thank you for paper to hide the surprises.
Thank you for lights in all colors and sizes.

I know Christmas is Jesus's day,
And I hope Your Son likes us celebrating this way,
With trees and with Santa, with gifts and with love.
I hope there are smiles all around up above.

Thank you, My God, for sending your son.
And in case they forget, "Thank you." From everyone.

Monday, October 20, 2014


And Now I'm a Mommy ... Having a Blok Party is a really cool site--it is all about word-of-mouth advertising, and encouraging people to try/buy new things by giving them the chance to experience the products in person. I was recently selected through the site to host a Mega Bloks® First Builders™ House Party. Woohoo!
I was sent a big box of (free for me) supplies to use at the party.
Our free party pack included two track sets, a bag
of loose pieces, extra cars, and a bunch of coupons.

Before the party, my family and I opened the sets
and put stickers on the new blocks.

A simple sign in the front yard,
Mega Bloks® everywhere!
 We "showcased" the tracks and cars that came with the sets on the main play table, and also set out the Mega Bloks® we already had so there would be lots of options for play.
The main components of the fabulous new sets!
A two-car collision race, or downhill-uphill track.

Side views of the initial configuration and a look at some of our fabulous stickering work!

Steep ramp.

Mega Bloks® Castle

Old-style Mega Bloks® piano


Big vehicles.
A big ole pile-o-blocks.
Snack area.
I set the packaging from the free sets around the snacks. I put both sets of directions in one box, and the snack wrappers in the other (in case there were ingredient questions) so they'd be easy to grab if someone wanted to know more!

Party Music:
No! By They Might Be Giants
 But I forgot to play the CD. :-/

Three qualities of the Mega Bloks® First Builders sets:
  • The Bloks have a distinct shape
  • The vehicles have round dark wheels
  • The sets are very colorful!
So, I chose snacks to match those elements.

Edible Blocks, Colorful Crunchers, & Wheels.

There were also Kool-Aid Drink Pouches on the side, since little builders get thirsty, too!

Wheels (Hostess Donettes)
The wheels were easy. I opened the bag of donuts, and arranged them on a plate, putting the "nicest" looking ones on top.
Colorful Crunchers (Bell peppers & ranch dip)
Peppers are one of my older son's favorite snacks. So, to make the colorful crunchers, I used 1/2 of a green pepper, 1/2 of a yellow pepper, and 1/2 of a red pepper. I sliced them into strips, then tinted some ranch dressing blue with food coloring.

Edible Bloks (Jell-O Jigglers)
 These wiggly blocks were very messy, and not very successful overall, even though they were gobbled down by the kids. I think if I made them again, though, I'd be able to do better.

Since they were the biggest "snack project" from the party, here are some details about how the (non-stackable) edible blocks were made:
I used some of the new Mega Bloks® and washed them several times, because I wanted them to be very very clean! We stacked the "single" blocks into larger blocks for stability and portability.
I sprayed the insides with cooking spray, and put
them into a large tray to catch any spills.
The outsides got sprayed, too, which made them super-slippery.
Wipe off the outsides immediately if you try this, and/or
be careful and don't get any spray on the outside.
I added food coloring to some.
The food coloring was way too messy--during prep and eating.
I used too much. But I also think maybe any was too much.
Ladling molten gelatin into toys.
Jigglers use a lot less water than Jell-O, so you get
a lot less "finished product" per box when you make them.

I let them chill in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Then I used warm water + a knife around the interior edges
+ a bunch of shaking to release the gelatin.

The water to help release the Jigglers should be slightly warm, NOT HOT.
I melted a bunch to an unusable state while discovering this. :(
Nailed it!
 Jell-O brand worked way better than Royal. But I also used the "Jigglers" recipe with Jell-O, and the on-box "mold" recipe with Royal. If I use Royal brand again for hand-held gelatin, I'll skip the cold water addition altogether, not just reduce it.

The few that turned out stood on their own, and did look very cute.
The best ones each went into a cupcake wrapper.
  Since, even with just the "good" ones going to the party, several were still quite wobbly, I added a cup with spoons to the snack table.
The Party:
I invited a bunch of people, but only two were actually able to make it to the party. Oh, well. I think/hope everyone still had fun.

The guests got to take home some Mega Bloks® vehicles and coupons. The extra vehicles and coupons will be going to the guests who thought they'd be able to make it, but had to cancel.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Grrr...TV Commercials

Stupid ads are one of the reasons I use a DVR & the Fast Forward button. And, because I know you really want to know, here are my 2 most-hated commercials currently on tv:

1. Kmart's Playground Yo Mama Non-Slams spot.
(I've only seen a shorter version on tv, and this longer version online.)

Forget any possible racial stuff. This is a stupid ad because it's trying to get people to shop at Kmart by highlighting why you shouldn't shop at Kmart! Yes, they changed the words. But we know what follows "Yo Mama" in real life. So watching this ad simply reminds me that other kids will harass my child for wearing clothes from Kmart. ::Insert horrible childhood flashback with cheap clothing and taunting classmates here. Cut back to a sniffling current-day parent.:: I'll take my son or daughter to the mall for back to school shopping. Or let the kid have my credit card number and go crazy online. I'll spend $150 on the cool pair of jeans. And $200 for sneakers! By golly, my mini-me will not be teased on the playground just because I want to save money!

2. AT&T's Real Estate Agents spot.

Replace the women with men and that one guy with a lady. (Use your imagination, children.) Now watch the commercial again. That's why this ad sucks.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How To Train Your Dragon: The Birthday Party

My son wanted a How to Train Your Dragon birthday party to celebrate turning four years old.  And that's what he got.  After the party, he said, "This was the best birthday party ever ever!" So I'll count it as a success! It wasn't perfect, but I'm still pretty proud of how it came together, so I want to share it with the world!

There were lots of dragon decorations. Some were "official" HTTYD or HTTYD2 party decorations, and some were just random dragons!
A Happy Birthday banner strung between two of those driveway-blocker dudes so popular in suburbia.
Sign on our front door. I didn't want anyone waiting outside for someone to answer the door. I also didn't want anyone to have to wait by the door to direct guests.
We had three adult party hosts. Each of us made our own duct tape viking helmet without seeing the other people's creations.
3-D horns and a crossed top.
Full-head blue helmet with blue horns.
Simple, with aging (stamp pad ink) on all of it.
The shed wasn't part of the party, but it was there in the yard, and I had those two posters. I deliberately hung them at angles.
Sticky-Back fours (four years old!) on several of the windows.
A HTTYD sticker on each four.
My car was parked beside the back yard, so I decided to use it for decorations, too!
I temporarily unhooked the handle on the back of the shield, and rolled up the car window on it & the sign to hold them in place.
I had five planned activities, which worked out very nicely for this age group.
The spots on the poster were temporary and are from dew. I woke up early to decorate!

A lightbox advertising poster for the HTTYD2 video game.
When the wind blew, the hanging dragon decorations under the deck looked like they were really flying!
Can you spot the dragons? (There are two in this pic.)
The kids had fun trying to find all the dragons I had "hidden" around the yard!
It was an unintentional-but-great activity!
The big, rectangular poster was a surprise gift for my son. We matted & framed it, then surprised him with it on his birthday and used it as a party decoration, too.
Happy Birthday banner across the deck railing.

Becoming Dragons

Face painting.
We always stock up on face paint after Halloween.
It's fun for baseball games, random fun, and parties!

Tails: Sweatshirt sleeves stuffed with newspaper and decorated with glow-in-the-dark fabric paint.
Wings: Twisted (Halloween decoration) spider webs and black duct tape. 
The kids chose their unique wings and tails from a fiery car trunk!

Little brother had his own dragon costume.
He actually enjoyed wearing it, and kept it on until we decided he should take it off.

When they weren't transforming into dragons, the kids decorated personalized (I wrote their names before the party) buckets with dragon, shape, and letter stickers.

Practicing Shooting Fireballs

Round red aqua beads, fully hydrated.
Clothespin-and-duct tape catapults.
Cardboard and tissue paper target.
We were ready to use the buckets as goals if there was too much wind for the target to stand.
Sometimes the fireballs bounced, sometimes they exploded on landing, sometimes the burst in mid-air. A few even hit the target. It was a lot of fun.

Catching Dinner

Dragon food: Stuffed animals (chicken, pig, duck, cow, rhino, cat, fish, etc.) in a cooler on the deck.
The kids were in the yard below the deck.
Each kid got a (store-bought) net and tried to catch food a dragon would eat as it fell from the sky.
We used a slingshot in the trial run, but found out throwing the food was simpler and just as effective.

The Feast

Lots of themed foods, fit for the even the hungriest dragons!
With computer-printed labels.
HTTYD cups, plates, & napkins, a dragon box paper weight, green bendy straws, four-eyed dragon fork & spoon holders.
And a viking helmet shadow.
Night Fury Brew & Liquid Flames: Grape Soda & Fruit Punch.
Dragon Chow: Boxed pasta with powder omitted & shredded cheese added! This was a big hit!
Some of the shaped pasta I used for Dragon Chow.
I accidentally cooked it too long, and the shapes were hard to see in the finished dish, but the kids still ate it!
I also used this pasta in the Dragon Chow. It was overcooked, too, but distinguishable as fish if you really looked.
Chicken: Popcorn chicken.
Tootless's Tomato Topping: Spaghetti Sauce--for the pasta or nuggets.
Drago-Gurt: HTTYD2 Go-Gurt
Viking Shields: Banana Slices coated with Nesquik powder.
I was going to spread them out on a plate, to showcase the shield-shape. But they ended up being very tasty, so I wanted to put out lots of them for people to eat. I did get a bunch of compliments on them. So I guess other people thought they were tasty, too!
Fish: Pretzel Goldfish & Colors Goldfish, with peanut butter in the middle.
(I knew none of our guests had peanut allergies.)
Sheep: Fluffy White Cheddar Popcorn.

Confetti cake with red food coloring, and poured chocolate frosting with vanilla frosting details..
The birthday boy had specifically asked for a dead fish cake.
Aquatic dragon claw ice cream scoops.
Non-aquatic dragon claw cake cutters/servers.
Cake cut with dragon claws makes oddly shaped pieces.

Attacking the Sheep
The sheep pinata.
Paper-mache body, head, and legs. Cardboard ears. Construction paper and duct tape covered the legs, and paper towels covered the face and ears. The face was drawn with a marker. And fake, fluffed-not-pulled, cobwebs (yet another Halloween decoration) covered the body.
Using the sticker buckets to gather candy.
The stores had already started selling Halloween candy (Good grief! It's August!)
and even though I think it's silly, I used it for the filling because I liked
the Fun Size Butterfinger, Runts, etc. better than the weak pinata mix bags I
saw in the same store,. There also wasn't any Halloween labeling on the wrappers.
So I think they tasted and looked good for a birthday!


Parting Gifts

After the party, each kid got to keep their bucket & pinata candy, a pair of wings, a tail, a net, and a favor bag.
One of the favor bags. The handles weren't ripped when the kids got them!
The favors.
A version of the catapults we used at the party.
An origami packet with dehydrated fireballs inside.
Cardboard Coaster targets with clothespin stands.
The back of each coaster had a handwritten thank you from the birthday boy.
Fire-breathing whistles made with whistles and shredded crepe paper.
A black or red spiked slap-band bracelet.
A sheet of HTTYD2 stickers.
A snack bag with Sweedish fish + Cupcake Goldfish + S'mores (chocolate, graham, and marshmallow) Goldfish
Bubbles with a HTTYD sticker.
A mini notebook stamped with a dragon, and the words "DRAGON JOURNAL" written on it.

My son loved his birthday party. He had helped test the games, but was surprised by a lot of the decorations, since I hid many of them from him until party day. It was terrific to hear his delight at each new discovery. He also had a great time with his friends and I think they had fun, too!