Saturday, July 28, 2012

Outdoor Cinema Themed Party

It's 10:25 a.m. and the guests just left. Ten of Bumblebee's closest friends spent the night last night for her birthday party. They had a blast, and I'm not as tired this morning as I'd have guessed.  (But I do see a nap in my future!) The Boy was rescued by his friend and he spent the night away from it all. Probably a good idea.

The theme was an Outdoor Cinema party. These were the invitations:


The goods:


Once everyone showed up, they got these movie 'kits.'


The water bottle idea was something I saw on Pinterest, I think, and it turned out to be the best idea. I took the label off of a bottle of water and replaced it with colored duct tape and then put each child's name on the bottle.


Easy peasy. You know how at parties kids lose track of which drink is theirs? This solved that problem! When their bottle was empty, we just had them refill it from the sink and they could add another flavor pouch to it if they wanted. It worked out really well.

Of course I had to make cupcakes. These were so cute.


I just made vanilla cakes with buttercream frosting. The "popcorn" is made from marshmallows. I smashed them and then cut them into clover shapes, then attached a little nub (a piece of a marshmallow) to the top of each one. The more irregular the better. Then I used a pastry brush to add the "butter" which was just equal parts yellow food coloring and water.

"popcorn" cupcakes for Vali's 'outdoor cinema' party

The wrappers were just cut from red and white striped scrapbook paper and taped around the cupcakes. I found the "popcorn" clip art online and cut it out and taped it to the wrappers. The girls loved them:


We finally had a break from the heat and the girls were able to sit outside to open presents. It was such a relief to be able to spend time outside. It's been over 100 degrees for like three weeks in a row or something. No exaggeration.


Typical cheeseball, Bumblebee.


After the girls played for a bit, we let it get good and dark, and the outdoor movie began.

We had a snack bar:


And we projected the movie on the garage door:


That's the movie "The Parent Trap." Back when Lindsay Lohan was adorable. I love the movie and the girls enjoyed it.

We played "Movie Bingo" too. This kept their attention on the movie, at least for a bit. Bumblebee and I came up with items that were in the movie and I created this bingo sheet on photoshop. I scrambled the order of the items so that each card was different, and gave the girls a marker to cross them off.


The girls got to choose from a prize basket in the order they found they got BINGO.

After the movie, it was pretty late, so they went downstairs to watch tv, play Kinect, and do whatever eleven nine year old girls do. All I have to say about that is this: Thank goodness for my walkout ranch house. They didn't get much sleep, and I didn't have to listen to them.  I gave them a strict rule that if they had to come upstairs to use the restroom, they had to do it two at a time. This was so that there weren't seven kids making noise in the bathroom, which would surely wake up the baby.

I did do a sneaky maneuver. I hid the baby monitor downstairs so I could tell if they were getting too noisy. I had it on mute, but my monitor has a light display that tells you how loud the noise level is. Yep. It was pretty noisy. Again, hooray for a walkout basement!

The girls didn't sleep much. But that's the fun of a slumber party, right?  Even so, they were up and at 'em at six thirty a.m., ready to go.

I gave them a breakfast of fruit and donuts. Why not let them go home to their folks all jacked up on even more sugar?


I converted their popcorn holders into 'treat bags' by washing them out and placing a few (cheap) items into them.


They played outside the rest of the morning and had a nice time.  This is what my driveway looked like this morning:


I'm not even going to show you what the basement still looks like. It needs some serious help. But I think it's time for a nap first.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nephew Number 7 (on my side of the family)

Meet William Atticus:
*photo of Will
My brother and sister-in-law brought this little man into the world on Friday. (yeah, a Friday the 13th baby. He's already awesome.)

I have five brothers - three of whom have had children.  They have all had boys. Brother E and his wife have three boys. Brother S and his wife have two, and now brother K and his wife have two as well. The only granddaughters my parents have are the three The Husband and I have had.

My brother and his wife didn't find out the sex of baby Will, so the announcement text after the baby was born said:

"I am not the first <family name> boy to make a girl."

Took me a second to realize that meant that they had another little man. 

Here he is talking to his mama:

And here he is with his daddy:

Some closeups of his adorable face. (He'll open his eyes for me another time.)




He might have been getting tired of my camera in his face...


Yep, definitely irritated with me.


He's a keeper.  Welcome to the family, Will.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Change of plans

Once upon a time, there was a girl named B. B was smart and funny and beautiful. She worked hard at school, studied whenever she could, took tough classes, and got straight As. B also got involved in sports, music, drama, and church groups. She volunteered when she could and won numerous school awards and distinctions.

B thought about where she wanted to go to college and when she was a junior in high school, she settled upon The University of Wisconsin in Madison. B and her mom toured the campus on a day when freezing ice pellets pounded their skin. B didn’t notice the frigid weather. The beauty of the campus won her over. She could picture herself walking to her classes with the throngs of students.

B continued to work hard at school and graduated valedictorian with a GPA above 4.0.  She gave a moving speech during graduation that talked about her class being musicians in a symphony, playing a four year masterpiece.  B’s mama was proud of everything her baby had become.

Not long before school was supposed to start, B realized that she couldn’t afford the out of state tuition at UW. No matter how she crunched the numbers, it just wasn’t going to work. B was devastated.

B’s mom was sad too, and was filled with feelings of guilt for naively believing that her daughter could go wherever she wanted to for college if she worked hard enough for it. She felt like a lot of heartache could have been avoided if she’d have known that scholarships are generally granted to students who go to school in-state, because she could have discouraged UW from the start.

B decided that she would have to go to an in-state school. She chose the University of Iowa, which is a fabulous school, even though it’s the arch-rival of B’s mom and dad’s alma mater.  Last week was a flurry of scrambles – administrative tasks and housing applications. By Friday it was official that B would be a Hawkeye instead of a Badger.

Changing schools might not seem like the end of the world. Certainly it's one of those 'first world' problems. But to a kid who has dreamed of her future among the halls of the University of Wisconsin, this is a tough, tough time for B. She has to grieve the end of a dream, and make room for a new reality. In time, she will warm to this new reality and she’ll flourish in Iowa City. But she'll need time to get over the hurt.

B’s mama is very proud of how gracefully B handled the final realization that she wouldn't be able to go to UW. She didn’t throw a tantrum or scream about the unfairness of life. She accepted the reality with a sad dignity that kind of twisted the knife just a little further into B’s mom’s heart.

B has three uncles who went to the University of Iowa. One of them – Uncle L – lives in Kansas City and gave up his weekend on one day’s notice to come up and give B a tour of campus. The fact that he was willing to drop everything and spend 10 hours roundtrip in a car to be there for his niece did not go unnoticed by his big sister.
*photo of L and B touring Uof I:

L showed her around, using his funny tour guide voice and his ‘little known facts’ about campus. It was a fun, light hearted way to try and ease B’s heavy heart. B looked around the campus in Iowa City:
*photo of B on campus looking around:IMG_8111
It's not Madison. And that's hard.

But it will be ok. She can spend her time finding out what she wants to do with herself instead going into a career like medicine to secure the earning potential to pay back such a huge student loan burden. She can relax and get by on a part time job for spending money instead of working her tail off to make ends meet. These thoughts made their way into the conversation this past weekend, so B’s mom knows that her not-so-little little girl will be alright.

Life lessons are tough. But perhaps this is the path she was meant to be on all along…

Friday, July 6, 2012

Let's cram a week's worth of photos into one blog post, shall we?

We've had an eventful week.

On Friday, this little guy (my nephew Simon) turned one:


See his adorable mom? That's my sis-in-law who is due to have another baby any day. Not quite Irish twins, but almost. Anyway, her Pinterest addiction is as bad as my own. She had all kinds of adorable decorations up for the party. Her theme was Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  She had cute little cut outs of phrases from the book and the corresponding foods that the caterpillar ate. So cute. Check them out:


I helped her by making a caterpillar cupcake cake:

Hungry Caterpillar Cupcake Cake

It turned out pretty well. The cupcakes were my own modification of this recipe. (I used homemade brownie batter and a boxed white cake.) Then I made my own buttercream frosting and went to town with the food coloring. I made a green frosting and a yellowish green frosting and smushed them together into my frosting tube tool. I think I could do more to create better color varigation, but it was a good first pass:

Caterpillar cupcakes

The head was a bigger cake made in a ramekin frosted with red frosting:


Anyway, that was the cake. I'm starting to get pretty good at this cupcake thing. I'm trying to figure out what to do for Bumblebee's birthday later this month. My girl loves popcorn, so I'm thinking of something like this, but we'll have to see how that works out. But do you know how hard it is to make cupcakes while you are on a low carb diet?

Simon's party was fun. We got to hang out with the family, and that always makes me smile. Mom was back from DC for the weekend, and we were especially glad to hang out with her. Here are some photos of the party:



Mom has gotten skinny. Living in DC and walking up 7 flights of stairs to her apartment has whipped her into shape! Here is Aunt Kim with Goblin:


And here's me with my snuggler. She's actually not a snuggler. She doesn't have time for snuggling and this photo was captured in the split second that she was content. Normally when I hold her she tries to climb me like a mountain until she's gripping my hair on the top of my head. Little monkey.

Mama and Natalie

After the party, my sister-in-law Molly came along to the drive-in with us. There are only a couple of them left in the state, and one is just a couple of miles from my mom's house, so it worked out perfectly. We saw the movie Brave. Here's my one word review: Meh.
*photo of Bumblebee at the drive-in

The Boy was with us too, but he is camera shy these days and gets irritated when I take pictures of him, silly boy. He's spent his summer going to football practice and sleeping, so there's not much to document lately, but I snapped this of him as he headed out to practice this morning. He looks like he's half asleep, doesn't he?


Sigh. The kid is growing up so fast.

We had a nice 4th of July, but I have to say that I don't like the holiday falling on a Wednesday. It has totally messed me up. I keep thinking that today is a Monday.

Here are some pictures from the July 4th parade. The Boy and The Husband opted to forego the parade and stay in bed, so it was only Molly, the girls, and me. But we had a nice time. We sat with Hollywood's boyfriend's family. That's him in the stylish yellow shorts. (Hollywood picked those up for him in Italy.)


Well, we had a nice time until I accidentally got sunscreen in Goblin's eyes. And the poor kid was already like a dripping faucet from her nose because of a summer cold/teething combination. It was sad to see her face all red and her eyes half closed:


Eventually her eyes cleared up a bit. And then she thoroughly enjoyed the parade, although she's being obstinate and not looking in the direction I want her to:


After the parade, we went to Target. Normally I love Target, but it was a bittersweet trip this time. We piled a cart up as full as it would go with dorm room items.

college shopping

I can very clearly remember moving into the dorms. Vividly. It was such an exciting and exhilirating event, and it doesn't seem like it was that long ago. So how can I have a child getting ready to go off to college?
Hollywood and Bumblebee had fun sitting on the weird chairs at Target:

chairs at Target

On the way out of the store, Hollywood gave me a hug and thanked me. I had the biggest lump in my throat and focused my attention on something that was falling out of the diaper bag so that nobody would notice.

So that's our week in review.  I love summertime.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Lose 30 by 40 - Week 1 Results:

This will probably bore you all to tears, but it's all about accountability for me, folks, so here goes.

Drum roll....

After a week of following my version of The South Beach Diet, my official weigh in today showed that I have lost 7.0 pounds!!

I can't believe it. 

How'd I do it? I stopped eating sugar (except for the cupcake I allowed myself to eat at my nephew's birthday party on Saturday) flour, and starches.  After one more week on the strict Phase 1 of the plan, I will slowly begin introducing good starches (oatmeal, whole grains, etc.) back into my diet.

I won't lose this much weight again. The first week is always a shock to your body's system (remember Biggest Loser contestant's first week losses? Yowza.) but after that I'm sure I will slow down to 1-2 pounds lost per week. 

This week was HARD. I was grouchy, had headaches, and felt sluggish, especially yesterday.

I noticed some interesting things about my eating patterns, especially that I am a stress-eater and that I eat when I'm bored or fidgety. Definitely things to keep in mind. Trying to find habits to replace the eating in those situations.  Today I feel pretty darn good. Maybe because that seven pound loss is stuck in my head? I'll take it.  Hopefully I can keep up the good work and get to that goal of mine.

Rome: The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill


This was my favorite tour of the trip. I was worried about how Goblin would handle it – since it was a TON of walking around, it was one of the hottest days we spent there. But I needn’t have worried; Goblin was perfectly content to be carried by me in the carrier, and when she didn’t sleep, she looked around and took in the scenery.

When you walk up to the Colosseum, there is a lot to see. Street vendors selling stuff that ranged from a €2.00 plastic pig that flattened into a “splat!” when it hit the ground (oh yes, we did. We bought one for the kids. It was immediately ruined when Bumblebee ‘accidentally’ chewed a hole in it and the water inside leaked out.) to a €100.00 Gladiator helmet. That was super cool, but impractical to buy on a tour. Who would like to carry that around all day?

They had streetside vendors who sold drinks and snacks, etc., and in Rome you can walk around with a drink, so Hollywood got herself a Bacardi Breezer.  This is pretty cute because we’ve called her “Breezer” since she was a little girl.
*photo of H with her Breezer:

A side note on the drinking thing: It’s legal for 18 year olds to drink in Rome. It’s not in America. I think this is a rather dumb rule of ours, and I suspect that it has something to do with alcohol abuse of young people. I went overboard in college when I was under the legal age, but once I hit 21 and it was legal, it just wasn’t as much fun anymore. Whether that was because I had grown up by then or it was no longer ‘forbidden fruit’ is debatable, I suppose.  Anyway, we did let Hollywood have a drink now and then while we were in Rome, and she was very responsible about her drinking. Let’s hope that responsibility travels with her to Wisconsin this fall.

Anyway. Now onto our tour.  The Colosseum was massive. Difficult to even explain how huge, really.  Here’s a photo of Hollywood standing in front of it:

We had a tour guide who was at times difficult to hear, only because the group was so large, but what I did hear from him was fascinating.  Here’s an image of the inside of the Colosseum:


And another of us. Goblin is checking out the place:
*photo of Hollywood, me, and Goblin: IMG_0423

My favorite part of the day, though, was the tour of Palatine  Hill and the Roman Forum.  Apparently most visitors opt to skip this part of the tour, but we were very glad that we didn’t. It was fascinating. Palatine Hill is where the legend of Remus and Romulus (the legendary founders of Rome) were said to have fought each other. Romulus killed his brother Remus in a grisly battle. There are all sorts of historical gems up on Palatine Hill. Rome became a republic in 509 BC. Until then, the city was reigned by an Etruscan dynasty of Tarquin Kings. This group built a sewer, to drain water from the marshlands of the valley to the Tiber river. Ever since, the area was the center of activity in Rome and was the site of the first forum. Here, triumphal processions took place, elections were held and the Senate assembled.

The area kind of looked like a huge jumble of ancient ruins. It was hard to figure out what you were looking at. But luckily, our tour guide (a cheerful Australian bloke who was easy on the eyes) told us all about the ruins.

Here are some photos. I won’t bore you with what they all are – but let me tell you this area was absolutely fascinating:

The arch of Titus:

The arch of Constantine:

The basilica of Maxentius: (The stone these purple columns are made of is among the most precious stone in the world. I can't remember the exact amount, but it was somethign ridiculous, like €15,000 per square inch.)

The beautiful gardens were amazing:

And there were cool trees:

Looking out over the forum ruins:

Looking out over Rome from the top of the hill:

Getting a drink from the water fountains (the water is fresh and cool and was wonderful after our long walks up steep hills!)

Once the tour guide left, we were able to walk around the grounds by ourselves.  We spent our time wandering around, looking for the restrooms (we never did find them!) and eventually we were thoroughly lost. It took us a while, but thanks to The Husband’s internal compass, we were able to finally get out of there and head back to our apartment.

Like I said, this was an amazing tour. We were able to let our imaginations fill in the blanks and picture a bustling civilization that was formed over 2000 years ago. I’m interested in getting some books to learn more about the area. Something about actually walking those grounds sparks a real interest in the area.