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Chloe’s 5th (Painting & Art) Birthday Party!

Chloe's painting art birthday party
Chloe’s 5th birthday party was a success! We hosted 16 kids plus their parents, and even now I find it remarkable that everyone seemed to fit in our home without seeming crazy crowded. Chloe loved having all her friends over and the 5 “art stations” seemed to entertain and engage the kids, despite a span of ages. They could choose what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it (and I was secretly glad to not have to organize any group games). And when party goers were done with craft projects they were free to roam outside to the sand table and play structure, or into Chloe’s room for dress-up, or Leo’s room for trucks and train table. It was great!

I didn’t take as many photos as usual, but here are a few shots snapped with my phone to show a little of our setup:

painting and art party table

Our main dining table was Station #1, painting. Each place had a set of (washable) watercolors (from this Crayola 24ct setcomes with 3 individual sets of 6 colors), a paintbrush, a bowl of water and a piece of watercolor paper set up for the kids to make their masterpieces.

Art party station play-doh

Station #2 was a Play-Doh table. I purchased a 24ct pack of rainbow Play-Doh and set out our rolling/cutting play tools. The colors were vibrant and lots of fun to mix and mash.

art party collage table

Station #3 was a collage table. I set out our collection of decorative edged scissors, stickers, colored glue sticks and a variety of paper for the kids to craft up a storm.

art party cookie decorating table

Station #4 was a decorate-your-own-cookie project. I originally saw this idea on Green Owl Art and decided it was perfect for little hands. I cut out cardboard circles as well as foam “icing” and purchased the same collection of stickers from Michaels. Easy to do and with really cute results.

Melissa And Doug wooden stringing beads and bead bouquet
Station #5 held wooden beads to make beaded bracelets. It included a set of Melissa and Doug Deluxe Wooden Stringing Beads set and the Melissa and Doug Bead Bouquet set. I think the kids really liked being able to include their names on their bracelets and the Bead Bouquet set had a nice variety of shaped and painted beads. I cut each necklace-length cord into 3 equal pieces (singeing the severed ends with a lighter so they wouldn’t unravel), so that every attendee could make at least one bracelet. Since the kits didn’t come with enough closure beads I supplemented them with lanyard snaps.

art rainbow party table snack decoration crepe paper streamers

Besides the snack table backdrop, the only other “decorating” we had time for that morning (besides balloons) was to line the pass-through from the living room to the kitchen with rainbow-colored crepe paper streamers as we have in the past. Young kids love to run through them and watch them flutter back into place. Plus they really give a visual bang for the buck, which is always nice. The snack table itself held a little less than usual since two of our young guests have severe food allergies. Good thing their moms are such avid ingredient readers, as I overlooked a detail even though I was trying to be careful.

Overall, this party was the perfect blend of what Chloe wanted to do to and the amount of effort I wanted to put into the planning and details. I sometimes wonder if I don’t do enough (or if I do too much), but this one felt just about right. There is no doubt that Chloe loved every minute. Afterwards, I received several sweet and heart warming comments and emails from moms who really thought it was a terrific time. Pretty much the best any mom could ask for. 🙂

P.S. To make it easy on myself I linked to the products above on Amazon, but purchased almost everything locally. For example the Play-Doh came from Target and the best price on the Melissa and Doug beads came from Home Goods.

Elmer's colored glue sticks best price

I also found a few things at Dollar Tree, which is always worth checking before a party. I purchased the left set of Elmer’s Colored Glue Sticks
at Dollar Tree for $1, but then saw them a few days later at Michaels retailing for $5.99. Sometimes it pays to shop around!


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Party Planning

Planning a painting art craft party

My little girl is turning 5 in less than a week! The older she gets the more she has her own opinions of what she wants to do to celebrate. A while back she mentioned a rainbow party. I remember thinking ‘Fun! I can do that!’ Then she said she wanted to paint with all her friends, and it morphed into a painting/craft party (with the same rainbow cake as last year, per her request). Earlier this week she said she wanted a fairy party, but by then I had already stocked up on watercolor sets and paint brushes, as well as other crafting materials (and to be honest, I have no idea how to throw a fairy party or how we’d incorporate boys). Either way, I know Chloe is very much looking forward to having her friends over and having a good time!

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this event – trying to stay within a reasonable budget, keeping the amount of decorating manageable but festive, planning varied and age-appropriate projects to suit different levels of interests and abilities, and most importantly of all: keeping in mind that this party is for Chloe to enjoy.

It is all too easy to fall into the stress of making a party “perfect” and feeling the pressure to impress other people. Its happened to me before, and still does to some extent. I’ve had to remind myself that this is for Chloe. Will she like this activity? Will this be fun for her preschool friends? But ultimately, I want the parents to enjoy being at the party as well. Socializing is all well and good, but its even better if the parents can participate in the fun.

Lastly, I’ve asked myself “How much cleaning up do we really want to do after the party’s over?” I am under no illusions about what might happen while hosting a painting/craft party with little ones involved. It is risky business any way you look at it. Mainly I tried to choose “washable” options and was careful to steer clear of anything involving glitter. The husband hates to see glitter on the floor, which is hard since Chloe loves “princess-y” things and has been gifted glittery clothes and toys which often leave a trail of sparkles behind.

So, that’s that! It’s going to be the largest gathering that we’ve ever hosted at the house, even though I tried to keep the guest list down as best I could. I just hope that everyone has a good time, and that Chloe feels the love of having her family and friends here to celebrate her big day.

More details to come after the party!


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Preschool & Toddler Activities

Chasing bubbles in the back yard

It is not even summer break, yet I already feel like I’m having a hard time keeping the kids busy. On one hand there’s the advice that says it is good for kids to be bored, because it forces them to be creative with the tools (or toys) they have access to. On the other hand, I’ve also read that boredom actually puts a lot of stress on a young brain, which science has shown to be unhealthy. All I know is when the kids are bored, they make this mama C.R.A.Z.Y.!

Since Leo’s second birthday is coming up in a couple weeks (and since my parents want me to buy Leo’s gifts for them), I have been happily researching some new games and activities I think would keep him occupied he would like. I’ve given him one gift a bit early, the Design and Drill Tool Kitby Educational Insights. He took to it like fish to water. Anything with pieces and moving parts is fascinating to him. It’s the smaller of the three sets, but I wanted to give it a try first. I’m poised to buy more bolts and an extra drill so his sister can join him. I love to have them working on a project together. The other sets come with pattern sheets that older kids can follow.

Speaking of patterns, Chloe is definitely aware of them in both shapes and colors. Here are a couple of her creations from just this past week. These were projects she designed completely on her own. All I got was a “Mom, come look what I made!” at the end. Plus, I’ve got to hand it to her, she takes Leo’s interference a lot better than I would if I was trying to concentrate on a creative project. I usually try to give them a little time to work it out (like with the colored plastic blocks), but if Leo cannot control himself from knocking down her buildings down over and over (like the wooden ones today), then I will remove him and give her some peace to work.

We also do a lot of arts-and-crafts type projects. Here was a project from yesterday, where the kids drew on popsicle sticks and I helped lash them together with tape (the classic “raft of popsicle sticks” project). It kept them both busy for a short time, and we did an “experiment” at the end to see if they would sink or float. However, Chloe was not happy to have the colors in her raft began to wash away. Whoops. I forgot that they were washable markers (the only kind I’ll let her brother near). By the way, Chloe told me that picture was of her and me that she drew on the sail.

And sometimes, I just throw my hands up in the air while saying “Whatever!” and go pull out something I’ve been saving – like these animal masks that I ordered for Leo’s upcoming party. Part of me wants the kids to be surprised, but part of me also knows that it wouldn’t hurt for them to get played with a little before the big day. It was surprisingly fun! We made silly faces in the bathroom mirror, trying on the different animals and finally I had to run and get my phone so I could take a couple pictures. This is the face of a child happily engaged in the activity she is doing at the moment. A photo worth a thousand words to this mommy!

 


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Talking Banana

 

Did you know that you could “tattoo” a banana with a safety pin or other sharp object? This was news to me (and yes, I live under a rock). So when I saw this post I decided to try it myself. And waddayaknow?! I wish I could have surprised David with this in his lunch, but unfortunately I did it on a Thursday night, and he works from home on Fridays. Oh well! I have a feeling this might be a staple messaging service for when the kids get packed school lunches someday.

 


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Birthday Gift Books for Preschoolers

   

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend! Chloe had back-to-back preschool birthday parties, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, so it was definitely a fun-filled weekend for us!

Since we are still getting to know both of the birthday kids, I thought a good gift for each child would be a book + art supplies (my usual go-to gift). For this, as usual, I looked to my own kids for inspiration.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

For the birthday boy, who also has a little brother about Leo’s age, we chose Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. Leo is WAY into trucks right now, and this is a book that both my kids enjoy. It is a New York Times bestseller, and the perfect just-before-bedtime read. It is about a crew of construction vehicles that finish up their jobs for the day and then go to sleep. The rhyming is thoughtfully done and the illustrations are in a crayon-drawn style. With this gift we attached a pack of crayola glitter crayons. Here’s the animated book trailer for Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (did you even know there was such a thing?!):

 

Bridget’s Beret

To the birthday girl, we gave a copy of Bridget’s Beret. Chloe and I both like to read this one (versus some of the books that Chloe likes that I don’t really care for – at least not the twentieth, or one-hundredth time!). This is definitely a book that will grow with her, and continue to be interesting.

Bridget’s Beret is about a young artist named Bridget who likes to wear a black beret. When her beret gets caught in a breeze and sails away, she feels like her ability to draw is lost along with it. Only when her little sister begs her to paint a sign for their lemonade stand does Bridget realize there is more to her talent after all. Such fresh and colorful girly illustrations! With this book to the birthday girl we also added a watercolor set. You can download a free activity guide for Bridget’s Beret here.

Here’s the funny thing: I didn’t realize until I bought both gift books that they were illustrated by the same author/illustrator, Tom Lichtenheld! I guess I don’t usually pay much attention to childrens’ book authors. Now that I know we like his style, we’re testing out several others from the library. Another cute book we’re currently reading is called Cloudette. See Cloudette’s sweet animated book trailer here.

Happy reading!

Just for the record, this is not a paid review. I’ve never actually done one of those, although I would love to! These are truly just some books that my kids and I really, really like!


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Family Portrait by Chloe, age 4

This is a drawing that Chloe made yesterday. I totally, totally love it. For the longest time she was mostly a scribbler. We never guided her drawing, but sometimes she would as us to draw something for her. Now suddenly she is starting to make all kinds of recognizable drawings. They are really fun to see, and sometimes come with imaginative scenarios or stories that blow me away.

The other photo shows her explaining the people in the picture: Daddy is in the middle. He is carrying her and Leo, one on each arm. He’s strong! Mama is in the back next to me, and Barkley (our dog) is the puffball in the corner under Leo.

The toy is a Fisher Price Kid Tough Travel Doodle Pro with Light. It’s been a great! I bought it for Leo to play with during our holiday flights to Colorado and Cancun, and also because he was always fighting over Chloe’s Toulouse-LapTrec from B. Toys (both definitely on my list of best toy purchases ever). The Travel Doodle has a little stowaway light the kids like to switch off and on, and turns off by itself (genius! why doesn’t anyone make a kids flashlight that does this?). For Chloe I pack her travel Aquadoodle which is much thinner and lighter, but mostly now she just draws on her ipad. We also have the large floor Aquadoodle that both kids can play with at the same time. All have been a big hit, and worth every penny.

PS. I just found out when getting the link to the Toulouse-LapTrec that all versions before 2011 have been recalled, which includes Chloe’s. Looks like they might send a new one. Hers is the chocolate brown version, but now it looks like they only come in olive green and red.

 


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Free Halloween Wall Art Printables

Its October! Only 31 days until Halloween! My girl has been asking about it for months. She loves dress up and, of course, there is nothing like trick-or-treating. We’ve picked up a few things from the dollar store to decorate with, but here are three fun signs you can download and print right from your computer: Eat, Drink and Be Scary, I Love Halloween, and Trick or Treat.


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Flower pinwheels

When we added the third bedroom to our two-bedroom house, the middle bedroom did not fare well. Not only did it lose a window (and lots of natural light), but the remaining window looks out at a blank fence that partially obscures the house next door. Someday, I’d like to do some landscaping on that side of the house, but until then these pinwheels spruce up the view nicely. And Chloe likes them. A lot.

Total cost: $7 at the dollar store. (And a special thanks to the cable guy who left his u-shaped staple gun here).


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More kid art recipes & ideas

Homemade Finger Paint Recipe from Easie Peasie

Shaving Cream Bathtub Paint from Having Fun at Home

Sponge-soaked finger paints for less mess from Baballa

Making Pretend Make-up from Nail Polish from Not So Idle Hands

Cornstarch Sidewalk Paint Recipe from Pink and Green Mama

All finds thanks to the lovely eye-candy that is Pinterest.


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Foaming soap pump makeovers

We like foaming hand soap in our house (see the previous post for just one of the reasons why). For kids, it’s less messy than bar soap, and it pumps out, spreads and rinses off easier than regular liquid soap. We even use it in shampoo form – more suds for the hair and less running into the eyes.

Seeing two empty pump bottles laying around made me wonder if we could re-fill them with our own home-made version. And guess what? All it takes is just a portion of liquid soap mixed with water. We filled our pump containers about an eighth full of regular liquid soap and filled them the rest of the way with water. Voila! Turns out the technology isn’t in the soap formula, but in the pump itself.

I’m so happy we discovered this. Now a bottle of regular soap lasts us so much longer, and each amount of soap costs a fraction of what it did before.

Extra fun: I peeled off the labels on our used soap pumps and gave them each a makeover. See the “before” photo here. The colorful one above is for Chloe’s bathroom and the black and white one below is for ours.

Update: Even though I used “permanent” Sharpie markers, the ink actually comes off if scraped too hard. They’d probably last longer if sprayed with a fixative. I wonder what would be a better medium? Some sort of paint?

Floral designs inspired by Sandra Isaksson.


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My Little Artiste

I guess with two graphic designer parents it is no surprise that Chloe loves art and crafts of any kind. Thankfully, it keeps her occupied for long periods of time, too.

When I’m tired or don’t have the time to clean paint brushes, I give Chloe Q-tips. They provide a different painting experience, and allow me to toss them when she’s done.

We have a bad habit of ruining play-doh by leaving it out to dry. Making it at home makes me feel less guilty, and its cheap and easy. Here’s the recipe and instructions, but you must let the salt dissolve in the water first, or the play-dough ends up with a grainy texture.

The photo at the top shows Chloe making a collage with her My First Scissors. They are rated for kids as young as four years old, but Chloe uses them just fine at 2 and a half (and under supervision). When she asks to “do cutting” I just hand her some pages from our recycle bin along with a glue stick, scissors, and a sheet on which to paste. It occupies her time, helps to develop good hand skills, and she enjoys it. All good things.


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A bit of happiness

Covering a wall with butterflies

Do you ever search the web to find a little bit of happiness? To me, the web is kind of like a magazine, full of ideas and inspiration and eye-candy (depending on where you look). One blog that is always good for the aforementioned qualities is Color Me Katie. She’s a photographer living in Brooklyn and shares lots of happy and colorful things, from crafts, to street art, to improv. I envy her rare gift that makes the ordinary extraordinary.  Take a look at these photos and see if her feel-good work doesn’t make your day a little bit more sunny. 🙂

Putting Rubber Duckies in street puddles

Drawing a kitty face on a toe

Birds flying out of a magazine

Marshmallows with faces


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I ♥ Collage Prints (2)

This is another collage that wowed me today. Artist Jenny Odell compiled satellite images from Google and created a really unique set of images. The one above 125 Swimming Pools is my favorite followed by 77 Waste and Salt Ponds and 144 Empty Parking Lots below. Jenny writes “The view from a satellite is not a human one, nor is it one we were ever really meant to see. But it is precisely from this inhuman point of view that we are able to read our own humanity, in all of its tiny, reliably repetitive marks upon the face of the earth…” You can read more about what she has to say here.

(via DesignSponge)


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Quick, Free Art

Free printable art to download
Poor Chloe is sick right now. She’s got it all – fever, horrible cough, puffy eyes, altered voice, runny nose, vomitting… It’s been pretty rough, especially at night. David took the first two nights sleeping in her room and then I took last night. She wakes up a lot, usually due to coughing fits that seem to work her in a frenzy of frantic crying and more coughing, which just makes everything worse. We’re pretty much taking it easy right now.

On a happier note, while at home this weekend I decided to finally re-fresh the art in our set of living room picture frames. For almost a year they’ve held abstract finger-paintings done in one of Chloe’s baby art classes. They were nice for a while, but I was feeling ready for something new.

Since getting pregnant this time around I haven’t felt at all creative, so I started looking on Etsy for possibilities. However, I didn’t want to spend very much or wait very long to get them. Then I remembered the web site Feed Your Soul: The Free Art Project. Basically, every month an artist provides a free, downloadable print. Isn’t that nice? I chose four (actually five, since I couldn’t decide between two), re-sized them to fit 8 x 10″ and then sent them off via internet to get printed at my local Target by one-hour photo processing. If I had a decent printer it would have been instant gratification, but I wasn’t even willing to wait for shipping (even though I prefer matte paper – Target only does one-hour processing in glossy). Each print was a bargain $2.89. Gotta love free art!


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Post-It Draw It Game

I have always liked Pictionary, so its no surprise that I find myself “drawn” to Post-it’s online “Draw It Game.” I’m not one to play facebook apps or video games, in general, but put me in this virtual room of strangers and I can waste time like nobody’s business. You don’t even need to sign up. Just play with the guest username they provide. Watch out though. Despite the admonishment to “doodle clean”  in case young kids are present, it doesn’t stop morons from drawing x-rated junk when it is their turn. Or cussing in the comments. Otherwise, though, it really is simple, good fun whenever you happen to have a spare minute.


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Hide-a-bee

A while back, I was flipping through an old Family Fun magazine where I read about a game called Hide-a-bee. Basically, they painted a rock to look like a bee and then “hid” it in plain site for the little kids to find. The first child who found the bee got to hide it for the next round, and so on. I was charmed by the simple concept (even for a toddler to grasp) and the inexpensive painted rock art. I made a few for Chloe this week (including a hide-a-bug ladybug). Its portability makes it handy for our upcoming flight, and if we lose it, hey, it’s just a rock!

More rock craft inspiration found here.


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Art Exhibit Event Postcard

Check it out! My photograph made the cover of the The Living River art exhibit postcard! I smile just thinking about it, and can’t wait to see the full exhibit in person. You can download a pdf of the postcard which includes accompanying events like a documentary film and speaker series here. Does this mean that I can call myself a real artist now? 🙂


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Experimenting with wings

I’ve been doing a little experimenting with Photoshop. It is an amazing program, and one I wish I knew better. Here I’ve played with adding little butterfly wings to a photograph of Chloe, and to a couple of my friend Greta’s photos. It is interesting to see the results. Aren’t these little girls darling?


Bottom two photographs taken by Greta Fleckenstein, and bottom set of wings by cocacolagirlie.


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Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

..
..
(1) Maple leaves in the forest  (2) White flowers, Smith Rock
(3) Indian Paintbrush at the grandparent’s  (4) Miniature Rose in our yard

I’m thinking about putting new photographs in the four gallery frames hanging in our living room. Over the years they’ve held illustrations, photos, artwork, magazine pages and right now they’re displaying fabric. However, you’d think with all the photos I take, I’d easily fill those four frames with new photographs. But, no. The issue? Finding four vertical shots to make a set. Since I don’t often photograph vertically, there is a limited number to choose from. Choosing a matched pair is easy. A set of three, fine. Finding four that look good together? That’s a challenge.

I briefly considered doing four shots of Chloe, but it seemed too shrine-like in our little house. Then I considered texture shots, but now I’m thinking about the four nature scenes above. I think what ties these together is the sunlight and glow of color, plus the combination of crisp foreground and softer background.  I also like that Chloe and David are represented in one of them, but not overly so.

Someday I’d like to  shoot a set of nice black & whites – maybe architectural in theme – bridges, buildings, cityscapes. I like the set of three France photographs donated to Craft Hope’s Etsy shop (they sold!), but they are all horizontal, too. Or maybe I just need to scrap the current frame layout and turn them all sideways. Hmm… there’s a thought.

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