Decorating for Fall

Fall is my favorite season, and I'm always ready to break out fall colors and decorations in August. This is even more comical since I've been living in Arizona for 10+ years, and fall weather begins sometime around....November. So I hold off until around late September and inevitably decide that I'm not waiting for a change in weather to change some things around the house. I don't do anything that takes tons of time or money, but I love the results when I add some little touches of fall.

First off, I pick up small pumpkins in orange and white and place them here and there. I like mixing the real ones with the rustic brown ones that I bought at Michael's years ago.

This year I balanced a few of the white pumpkins on candlesticks in front of Maggie's little abstract art canvas. I remembered that I had this black tassel garland left over from a birthday party, and threw that up on the wall since it looks sort of Halloweeny. 

My assistants wasted no time stretching fake spider webs anywhere they could. I let them have fun with it.

I also put out the canvas trick-or-treating art that Maggie made a few years ago, along with this little candy dish that my grandmother made for me when she was taking ceramics classes years ago. Still makes me smile when I look at it.

After Halloween, I'll take down the spider webs and jack-o-lanterns, leaving the pumpkins and fall leaves for Thanksgiving.

For more simple decorating ideas, seasonal or otherwise, check out The Nester's series on vignettes. I love to use her ideas - like incorporating some simple kid-made art and sentimental items - when I change things up. How do you decorate for fall? 

Joining the linkup at! Stop over and check out the ideas over there.

Origami Yoda Birthday Party

origami yoda birthday party ideas

For my son's 10th birthday, he wanted to have his first sleepover. We agreed to a small gathering of just a few of his friends, and decided on an Origami Yoda theme, since that book series was one of his current favorites and the boys love anything Star-Wars related, so we had a lot of options for this one! 

I gathered all of his Origami Yoda books for inspiration for the invitation and decor. Using the black background and lime green as an accent color, this was the invitation design:

Origami Yoda Birthday Party Invitation
Origami Yoda Birthday Party decor


If you have a 10-year-old boy in your life, you can imagine how much he cares about party decor ("seriously, Mom, centerpieces?!") - Luke really just wanted a fun time with his friends, but I couldn't help but do a little something to make it fun and festive. And even he admitted it was "cool." I didn't fuss too much, but I got my assistant to create some tissue paper pom-poms in the black and lime green color scheme. I set up a (short-lived) display with the Origami Yoda books and another book Luke had, so that the boys would have them for some activities...

origami yoda birthday party
origami yoda birthday party decor


With Luke's birthday falling right after Christmas, I always luck out with decor if I can work green or red into the theme. I picked up these sparkly clusters of plasticky fake leaves, completely unsure of what I was going to do with them. I threw them into little vases with pebbles and bunched up foil tissue paper from Dollar Tree, and in about 10 seconds I had some fun centerpieces - I also ran metallic wrapping paper across the dining room table, which was where the boys would be hanging out. Fun and functional, as it protected the table from the coming mayhem.

origami yoda birthday party decor

Because we agreed that this would be a very small gathering, I was able to purchase nicer favors than I can when we have a big crowd, and in this case, the favors were going to double as the evening's activities as well, I got each boy (and of course Luke's little sister!) a pack of this origami paper from Make sure you shop around for this kind of thing - I had seen it for double the price at Michael's and was so glad I checked Amazon! I also got each guest a fine-tip black Sharpie, a silver Sharpie, and a roll of fun colored washi tape - some of Luke's favorite origami tools. You can get the Sharpies and washi tape at any discount store, office supply store, or Michael's, but also check Etsy for some really cute, fun washi tape patterns. We put the goodies in a white lunch bag with stickers I designed, along with some origami folding instructions we got from the Origami Yoda website. The boys went to town, making all kinds of fun and crazy creations. Evidence of the fun:

We concluded the crafty part of the evening with an epic (their word!) paper airplane making contest, and then moved on to pizza and make-your-own ice cream sundaes. The boys then wound down with a showing of Star Wars and happily crashed for the night. This was such a fun party, and I love how intent the boys were on their projects – it kept them busy and content for hours – hooray! If you have a child who is around this age, check out the Origami Yoda book series - a big hit for them!

Linking up here - click the image below to link to lots of great ideas and inspiration!

The Idea Room

refinished kids' art table

The makeovers continue.....Chad refinished the kids' art table, which they use all the time. They draw, paint, and craft there, and they love to sit there with their snacks when they watch a movie. We took it from a light maple, which really didn't match anything in the house, to a dark wood. Now it looks like it belongs here!

fun in oceanside, ca and legoland

I wasn't completely honest in my last post. I talked about some of my weekend plans, but I didn't mention that we were taking off for a quick trip to California - I'd rather announce my travel plans to the internet after the fact :) . My in-laws joined us for the trip so that we could take the kids to Legoland - their very first theme park. Luke has been absolutely obsessed with legos this year, and a lot of my friends told me that Legoland is perfect for kids their age (6 and 3). We really wanted to take a trip this summer, but we had to do it on a tight budget, and we managed to make it happen! We got a great deal on rooms at the Holiday Inn in Oceanside, CA, which is really close to Legoland. We were especially lucky considering that this was a last-minute plan and a holiday weekend. I was a little skeptical because you can never really tell how a hotel is going to be from the photos on the website; I've been to places before that looked great online, but in person were old and run-down. We weren't going for "fancy and luxurious" here, but we did want "clean and convenient." I can not say enough good things about this hotel.

It's a newer hotel, and it was immaculate (HUGE bonus points from me for that!). The rooms were spacious - two queen beds and a little sitting area with a couch, a large flatscreen tv, microwave, and fridge - PERFECT for traveling with children.

Holiday Inn Oceanside, CA

Holiday Inn Oceanside, CA

Holiday Inn Oceanside, CA

The staff was exceptionally nice - very patient with my energetic children bouncing around the lobby because they were so excited. They went above and beyond to answer questions, get us anything we needed, and just in general help us out. It was the best hotel experience I've had while traveling with my kids. We'll definitely stay there again.

The hotel was a short walk from the beach. It was such a quick trip that we only spent one afternoon at the beach, but the weather was gorgeous and the kids had a blast. Later we got changed and walked to the harbor area for dinner - it was so nice not to have to get back in the car!

oceanside, ca  beach

The next day we headed to Legoland. We all had a fantastic time. The kids loved the rides, and my friends were right - the park is perfect for younger kids. I was a little surprised that Maggie was a little too short for quite a few of the rides, but she had a great time anyway. The park did get pretty packed around lunchtime, so I was glad that we had arrived when it opened and covered some territory before the lines got too long.

legoland california

All in all, it was a great trip - just a little too short. Next time, I'd love to stay a little longer, but the change of scenery was nice and seeing the kids experience something new was really fun.

cute little card

It's a little late for Valentine's Day, but I have a cute card tutorial that could apply to any other occasion. For Valentine's Day this year, I was trying to come up with something cute for Maggie to bring to school. Luke, of course, already had his heart set on some Lego valentines, but Maggie's still young enough that she was open to suggestions. I came across Tiddly Inks, an ADORABLE Etsy shop, and she not only sells her art, but also digital stamps that you can manipulate in Photoshop and use on whatever you want (not commercial use, though). What I was really excited about, though, is that she has several little curly-haired girls — almost impossible to find! So I chose a little curly-haired fairy and got to work, coloring her in Photoshop, shortening her hair a bit to look more like Maggie, and adding a little heart to her dress for V-day:

m valentine
m valentine

Then I chose a patterned background and added some wording. I wasn't sure what I was going to do about envelopes, and then I came across this cute petal envelope template. I sized it down so that I could fit two to a page, like this:  And then we (and by "we" I mean "I," since Maggie had lost interest by this point) printed, cut, and folded them:


Maggie got interested again when I got out the stickers. We topped each with a heart sticker to hold it together, and we were done! So although this was for Valentine's Day, you could use the same idea for party invites or little Mother's Day cards, etc. If you try it out, I want to hear about your projects!

I'm adding this to Tip Junkie's Tip Me Tuesday!


IMG_4602 I discovered digital scrapbooking a few years ago. I had never really gotten into "real" scrapbooking, but kept thinking that I would eventually get around to doing it - I love the books that some of my friends and family had created, and it's such a nice way to save memories for the kids. Then I stumbled across the digital version and discovered that that would work even better for me. I think it's a little faster, and I love that you can replicate books and layouts without starting from scratch.


How I did it:

I created a photo book for the first year of each of my kids' lives using Shutterfly and their vast selection of layouts and backgrounds, and they came out cute. But as I browsed sites like Shabby Princess and Designer Digitals, I started to find elements and fonts and layouts that I wanted to be able to use.

I found a few tutorials to get me started, and created a 2006 photo book in Photoshop Elements, capturing the highlights of the year, and uploaded it into blank layouts on Shutterfly. (A couple of "getting started" articles: here and here)

I've since tried Apple's photo book printing (for my 2007 book) and was pleased with the results there, as well — to be honest, I didn't see much difference between the two books, so I look for whoever is running a good deal!

This year, I used Adobe InDesign to create my own layouts. That's the software I use for a lot of my freelance work when I design newsletters and that kind of thing, and I was able to create layouts and drop pictures in pretty quickly. My own books tend to be heavy on photos and text, and less on the decorative stuff, but I've seen some people get really creative with layouts.

What I put in the books:

For my 2008 book, in addition to photos, I tried to include more stories about the kids that I'd written down over the course of the year. When I look back, I'm always glad that I took the time to write down these little moments. It's surprising how quickly we forget the specifics, and already I am amazed to remember things that happened a few months ago and see how much the kids have changed already!

I also included some pictures of the kids' artwork; I've talked about it before, and this is one way I've found that I can preserve the cute stuff they create without taking up quite so much space.


Slurp Your Blog:

For you bloggers, I've heard that blurb is a great way to capture your blog. You can slurp your blog (how funny is that?!) straight into a nice, bound hardcover or softcover book and preserve all of those images and memories.


Any other scrapbookers (digital or traditional) out there? I'd love to see some of the things you've created. If you don't scrapbook, how do you record your family's memories?

It's not my usual random decorating post, but I'm adding this to Kimba's DIY Day again. It counts, right? :)

princess party: the wrap-up

The princess party I mentioned a few weeks ago was a success! We did a small family party on Maggie's actual birthday, and she had so much fun that she was confused when I told her we had another party with her friends coming up on the weekend. For her family party, I made the cake (with a little help from the birthday girl herself). I'm not much of a baker, so I used a butter cake mix and added a cup of sour cream — it makes it a little richer, and it was so good! I iced it with a white chocolate icing, using one of the Cake Mix Doctor's icing recipes.


If you're like me and don't bake much, her books are such a huge help! The recipes are simple and come out great. Having said that, I have found it virtually impossible to produce a cake that actually looks good (I just have no luck!), but at least it tasted good. And Maggie was thrilled with the "princess sparkle sprinkles."


The family party was low-key and fun, and then I got to work on the "kid" party. I created a cute little invitation design (the princess image came from here) and sent it in an email instead of as a paper invite (I was running out of time, and wanted to give everyone a little notice!).

maggie's invitation for web(I took the specifics out for this post to keep the internet crazies from knowing too much)

I printed out princess and knight images with the kids' names on transfer paper and ironed them onto inexpensive t-shirts for favors - they were a hit! Here's Maggie wearing hers at the party, and one of the boys' shirts:



We ended up having the party at a local restaurant. It's a small place that happens to be owned by my dad and brother-in-law, so we picked  a low-traffic time, set up the back room with tables wrapped in white paper (from Michael's) and crayons, and played "pin the kiss on the frog" (from Wal-Mart!) on the patio. It was lots of fun.


So that's the princess party in a nutshell. Anyone else seen any great kids' party ideas lately?

I've added this post to Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family. Go over and check out all of the great tips!

back to school and a great before & after

Things have been busy here! Both of my kids started school today. I'm excited and tired and anxious to get settled into a routine. IMG_4661

How about some kitchen inspiration for your Wednesday?  Mandy got new kitchen counters. Here's the before:


Now go check out the after. Beautiful! Those are exactly the counters I'd love to have!

big words

I'm kind of a word nerd, being a former English major and all. So when I saw Big Words for Little People (by Jamie Lee Curtis) at the library, I thought it looked cute. 51Rv09UXJCL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_

The kids loved it, and I was happy to see that Luke already knew the "big words" they mentioned in the book. He's been known to tell Chad that something is "totally inappropriate," and just the other week was telling my mom about the new legos he has his eye on, and that one of the sets is "outrageously expensive."

I love it when he "uses his words," but at the same time, it's always hilarious to hear young kids trying to sound like adults. Anyone else have any cute stories about their kids having a grown-up moment?

school lunches

Have you heard of the now-famous bento box preschool lunches? 2595743954_dc1a75533e

Wendy Copley's blog, wendolonia, features some various categories, but the amazing bento lunches that she prepares for her son are the main attraction over there. The adorable arrangements look so creative and so much more nutritious than my kids' lunches....they make me vow that this year it will be different. This is Luke's first year of all-day school, so previously he only needed a snack, but I always tended to overpack since I was unsure of what he would eat. Maybe if I step up the presentation (photo-worthy kiddie lunches!? sheesh!) I'll have better luck with him. I speak from experience when I say that a half-squished pb&j in a rumpled baggie is not the most enticing thing after a rough morning of reading and math (thanks, mom!).


It's hard to believe that school starts next week, and that my little boy will be a kindergartner! What do you do to make back-to-school go smoothly? Lunch ideas? Routine ideas? I want to get off to a good start!

photos from wendolonia