Monday, April 30, 2012

I feed her, I swear

I'm pretty well used to being on my own while Drew travels.  Sofia and I have our rhythm and Drew comes home on the weekends and we work it out.  It's neither perfect nor ideal but we work with what we've got.

However, this last trip was ten days - he hasn't been gone that long since the baby was born and LAWD JEEZUS.  Ten days is a long-ass time to try and figure out what to do with a toddler.  Because yes, I have a toddler who walks and talks and eats everything she can get her hands on, as long as it's not fruit.  My baby is a full-on meat-a-saurus.  Any and every kind of meat is her favorite.  Thankfully, she'll eat broccoli and spinach and cheese, but fruit gets thrown on the floor.

She likes to eat other things too.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Birthday breakdown: The gifts

Good thing this is the last birthday post because at the rate I'm going, she'll be two before I finish recapping everything!

When we last left the party, I was recounting the decoration drama.  However, everything went well in the end and all that mattered was that Sofia had a good time, which she totally did.  Now, I'm not sure what gift etiquette is at birthday parties, but our friends and family were incredibly generous and Sofia got lots of presents.  Since the majority of the kids were under two, I decided against opening presents while everyone was there because I figured no one would sit still long enough and really, how excited would the parents get over books or clothes or toys?

So, once everyone left, I sat on the floor with the baby and we started opening her gifts.  The absolute hands down best part of it was the gifts that Sofia received from MY blog friends!  I wasn't expecting anything and when packages started arriving from out of state addresses that I recognized, I was floored.  As a mom, all you really want in life is for people to be nice to your kid.  You can call me every name in the book and I won't even blink but look sideways at my baby and it's go-time.
Opening presents from Grandma and Grandpa in New York

Ignore my ridiculous face.
These adorable dresses are from Shunta!
As well as these!
This one too! Sofia is such a lucky girl!
Shunta also got her the cutest bow and shoes because you must always accessorize.
My baby is stylin' thanks to Shunta!
This one is from the thoughtful Miss GG
I don't know if you can see it, but it says
"Star of Mommy's blog."
How awesome is that?!
This is the most awesome girl's birthday card.
It's pretty and pink and glittery and I loved it!
This is from my sweet Carolyn
This is so adorable!
I cannot WAIT until she's big enough to wear this little outfit!
I totally squealed when I saw this little skirt!

A few days later, another package arrived in the mail from Uncle Nate and Auntie Julie.  I was already so humbled by everyone's generosity, I would have been happy with just a card.  When I opened the box, I nearly started crying.
Julie stalked my Pinterest board and had this made.
It's perfect.  Just perfect.

Sofia got tons of other amazing gifts, and more toys than she knows what to do with.  I have two baskets in the living room for her toys that are completely overflowing.  I have no idea what we're going to do as the toys get even bigger.  

I know I said it before, but Sofia's birthday really was a fabulous success.  We had so much fun, having our friends and family celebrate with us was priceless and it was a perfect day.

As to whether or not I'm going to do this again next year, the jury's still out.  

Although I just saw the cutest picture the other day....
I love the blue fabric and the netting with the sea animals is so cute!
Those stands are just candlesticks with plates on top, I could start looking
for candlesticks now, and I bet I could find shells somewhere too...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Birthday breakdown: Party pics!

It's the post you've been waiting for!  Or not, but it's the post I've been dying to write.  Either way, I've got party pics!

But first, let's talk decorations.  I had a specific vision for what I wanted at Sofia's birthday party.  Y'all have heard me talk about the cake nonstop here, here, here and oh yeah, here too.  Cake is important to me.  Cake is serious.  Cake is everything.  

However, decorations are just as important and I knew what I wanted.  Namely, I wanted mobiles over the gift table, aka our dining table.  I had visions!  It would be perfect!  I would SEW!  The only problem is I had plans to do lots of other things myself.  I wanted to make the favors.  The food I wanted required same-day prep.  The tables had to be arranged and dressed just so.  My hair had to be done the morning of the party so it would be cute.  I wanted to make a special birthday playlist so there would be cool music playing in the background to create the environment.  I wanted pictures of Sofia everywhere documenting how she's grown over this past year.  Oh yeah, I wanted a balloon canopy over the patio.

You might say I bit off more than I could chew.  But that wasn't going to stop me from at least trying and wrangling all the help I could get.

My parents and 5-year-old cousin arrived the Thursday before the party.  The first thing I did was put everyone to work blowing up balloons.  I could have rented a helium tank but at $300, I quickly decided that CO2 was free.  So I locked us all in the sunroom so the dog wouldn't get at them and we got to blowing up nearly 200 balloons.
 I bought these at Target.  Do not buy this brand - I'll tell you why in a minute.
The awesome thing about little kids is that you can put them to work 
and they think it's fun!
While Sofia couldn't blow them up, she had great fun crawling around 
with the balloons in her mouth.
That is, when she wasn't taunting poor Maya, who was stuck on the other
side and whined the whole time.
Between the four of us, it took less than two hours to blow up all the balloons.
I went for hot pink, light pink, blue, green, and white but the green came out 
more yellowish.  I briefly considered running out and getting more green balloons but
I was quickly vetoed.

Drew came home later that night and he talked with my dad about how to string them up in the backyard so I could have my balloon canopy.  Friday morning, Drew, my dad, and our friend Harrison got to work stringing up the balloons because they decided that it would be too much work to do it the morning of the party.  So we girls set out on our party errands while the guys stayed home to do balloons.  When we got home, I found that they'd been successful!
I didn't tell them that I wanted them in order, you know, hot pink, light pink, blue, green, white
and so on, so they just strung them up as they grabbed them.
I knew better than to say anything.

However, no sooner had they gotten them strung up than they started popping!  I guess the heat was too much and there were all these random popping noises.  We agreed that it was reminiscent of the dad shooting the birds the day of the wedding in Steel Magnolias.  But the popping balloons was the least of our worries.

You guys, my awesome balloon canopy started deflating!

By the end of the night on Friday, Every. Single. Balloon had deflated.
All 180 balloons.

I was so upset!  I had a vision for this party and my vision included a balloon canopy.  I was crushed and was convinced that the party would suck without the balloon canopy and all the guests would talk about my sucky party and how deprived my daughter was.  So do you know what my hero of a husband did?  They went out and bought 150 more balloons and they blew them all up, and strung them up again!  This time they got a different brand from Wal-mart and while they popped too, they held up for the duration of the party!
Balloons, round two.
About two hours before the party.

And that was just the balloons!  I was scrambling to finish my mobiles and I had put my dad to work cutting the strips of paper so I could sew them.  Finding spare time to sit at my sewing machine was a feat in and of itself and then trying to find something at the hardware store to weigh them down was a whole other deal.  Have you ever taken a one year old, a five year old and a grandma to run errands?  Everything becomes a production.  There is no running in and out of stores.  The word 'quickly' doesn't exist in a five year old's vocabulary.  

But, against the odds we did it and we hung the mobiles about ten minutes before people started arriving.  I actually got Amy Barry's help because I wanted her to take pictures of them and she couldn't do that while they were still laying on the table!  She and my brother were amazing and brought that part of my vision to life!
I was so happy with how they came out, we left them up for several days after the party.

Then there were the party favors.  Since it was a garden party, I had the brilliant plan to give plants to all the kids.  I had visions of the plants living forever and one day, when Sofia and her friends were all grown up, they would all have these big plants that they got at her one-year birthday party.

I bought the planters and wanted to paint each one with chalkboard paint (that I already had, thank God) and personalize each one.  Yeah, when was I supposed to find time to paint the pots, write on them and oh yeah, plant the plants?!  Once again, my hubby came to the rescue and planted them for me while I was sewing/baking/cleaning/running around after little kids.  And they came out great!
I wanted to string some mobiles over this table too so the mobiles made more sense,
 but I ran out of time.
That's pretty much the story of this party.
Everyone really liked their plants though!
I also knew I wanted pink champagne, so when World Market had bottles of fizzy alcohol
on sale for 4 bucks each, we scooped up a cartful.  I got some peach flavored ones just
for me and thoroughly enjoyed several glasses.
I was really happy with the sweets table.
Drew's dad sent his famous chocolate peanut butter cookies
since they couldn't come to the party and I wanted to make sure they 
got a place of honor.
The petit fours were a big hit too!  And I got my burlap tablecloth!
I wanted to cover the food table with burlap as well, but I didn't get enough
and I ran out of time to go buy more.  Ah well.
I wanted the food table to be fancier, but I was sending food out as the guests
were arriving so there wasn't a lot I could do.  However, I got my flower sandwiches
and veggie cups!  I even made some hummus from scratch!
Actually, everything on here was made, we didn't buy anything pre-made.
The next party will not be that way.

But soon enough, everyone had arrived at it was time to party!
We even Skyped with Grandma and Grandpa in New York!
My baby's first birthday party was underway!
Between my brother and Amy Barry, we got some great shots!
like this one
playing with friends
In a stroke of genius, Drew laid down this rug so the babies would have a spot to chill.
My hubs is so smart.
I love how her little pinkie is extended.
She was completely successful in making a fantastic mess!
Like I said, my favorite part of the party.
We have lots of these pictures because they're awesome.

I'd say the party was a success, in that we made it through alive.  Looking back, I definitely would have done more things differently.  If I were going to do so many things myself, I would have started much earlier.  It's not like I didn't know what I wanted, but I procrastinated until the last minute and that is not possible when there are so many elements.  I would have bought food, or made less of it.  I blame Pinterest for that.  There were so many things I wanted to try, so many dishes I wanted to have and I should have just chosen one or two and left it at that.  I would have made one. fricking. cake.  I'm not even saying anything else about that.

I wasn't overly stressed about the party, but I just ran out of time.  I definitely enjoyed myself and I can thank Zoloft for that.  When the party started, I was done.  No more running around, last minute stuff was either done or not, and that was that.  I enjoyed watching my baby and when everyone gathered around to sing Happy Birthday to her, I nearly started crying.  It was an awesome day.

And since this post is epically long already, I'll stop here.  But I have to tell y'all about her presents!  MY blog friends bought birthday presents for my baby!  It's amazing and heartwarming and I can't wait to tell you all about it!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

D-I-Y don't you just buy a shirt?

Finally!  I get to write!  

*two hours later*  Ok, really!  I get to write now!

I've been trying to post but Sofia has pretty much given up her morning nap and we're still working on an afternoon nap that's longer than 40 minutes, so it's been a little rough 'round these parts.

But I'm going to recount her birthday if it's the last thing I do, because I want to remember every detail and I have to blog for that, because I can't remember what I did yesterday without help.

SO!  I had already sewn my skirt for the party and I was really pleased with how it came out.  I should have quit while I was ahead and bought a shirt.  But of course I didnt.

I have a bunch of 'refashion your t-shirt' tutorials on Pinterest (psst, come follow me!) and I figured I could sew something up and wear it to the party for zero dollars and zero cents.  Originally, I was going to rent something from Rent the Runway but Drew was having a conniption over how much money I was spending on the party (and for the record, he'd have a conniption if I spent $20.  I keep telling him we didn't spend that much!) so making something would definitely help my marriage.  Although when I saw this garden party dress, I did some shameless begging to no avail.
Pay no attention to the price tag - the dress has BUGS on it and that makes it awesome!
That's what I told Drew.  It didn't work.

So even though I couldn't get the awesome bug dress and renting one wasn't an option either, it was up to me and my trusty sewing machine to make something awesome.

Y'all.  It took me SIX HOURS to sew that damn t-shirt.  I know this because I slow-roasted a pork shoulder while I sewed.  Six hours is ridiculous for a damn t-shirt.  That's the problem with DIY.  It's the better choice only if the ratio of time spent to money saved is not out of whack.  I could have taken ten minutes at H&M, gotten a cute and cheap shirt and taken my happy ass to bed instead of staying up and spending SIX HOURS sewing a t-shirt just because I already had it.

But then I wouldn't have a story to tell, and where's the fun in that?

So with the baby in bed, I got to sewing.
I started with a plain white T.  I don't know why, but I have a ton of them.

I laid a shirt that fit me over it and roughly traced the outline with tailor's chalk.

I tried to mimic the curving in at the waist, but I wasn't that successful.
The arms of the t-shirt were way harder because the cut of the orange shirt was completely different from the white shirt.

The most time-consuming part was putting on the shirt, figuring out where to pin/sew/cut while it was on me, taking it off, double-checking that I pinned/marked right, cursing when I didn't, putting it back on, measuring again, taking it off, did I just hear the baby?  No, okay where was I? Right, putting it back on, lining it up and sewing.  

In and of itself, sewing is easy.  Once you thread the machine properly, you're good.  It's all the other garbage.  Like cutting.

 I wanted a wider neck with a deeper V, so I could nurse in my new shirt.
I folded it in half and cut.
Don't do that.
I got a nice deep V in the front, so I don't know why I was surprised I got it in the back too.
Because that's what happens when you fold something in half and cut it.
At first, I was okay with it because it looked kind of cool and I don't mind showing off my tattoo.  Actually, sometimes I forget it's back there.
Also, you should leave a comment about how awesome it is and how cool tattoos are
because I'm trying to convince Drew that I need another one.

However, I was too scissor happy.  That's what I'm learning about sewing - you don't have to cut or hem nearly as much as you think you do and I made my V too wide.  I didn't want to have to wear a strapless bra but since I cut too much, that was the only option since the shirt wouldn't really stay on my shoulders and I didn't want my bra showing.  Lucky for me, my bra showed anyway.

Then I got the bright idea to sew a neckline around my shirt to make it look more finished.  Do you have ANY IDEA how long that took me?  DO YOU?  I do - three turns of the pork shoulder, or three hours.  At that point, I should have thrown the shirt in the trash and gone to bed.  But oh no, I'd come too far to give up now!  So I cut a long strip from the bottom of the shirt, tried to fold it in half but it wasn't wide enough, cursed about it but tried to make it work anyway.
My attempt at topstitching.  
It was probably close to midnight by now and I'd started at 8.

Needless to say, the attempt at sewing a neckline didn't go so well and at that point, I really should have given up.  But oh no!  I figured I could fix it if I sewed rosettes all around the neckline to disguise the neckline/topstitching mess.

Y'all.  You have to hand cut each. individual. rosette.  Just to get a small corsage looking bunch of rosettes you have to have like 25!!  I was going to need hundreds if I wanted to line the whole neckline!  I'd cut like ten and I was like EFF THIS, how 'bout a RUFFLE!  One long piece of fabric, gathered around, a couple of stitches here and there and you're done!

Yeah, ruffles aren't that easy either.  So I stitched on about ten rosettes and called it a night.
Of course, I don't have a picture of the shirt with the rosettes, but you get the idea.

The day of the party, I got dressed early and put on my shirt because I was going to wear it no matter how homely it looked and how pathetic my ten rosettes were.  But as the morning passed and I ran around more and more, it stretched out and kept slipping off my shoulders.  I got tired of continually hiking it back up, so I put on a pink tank top that didn't match as well.  I was bummed, but I was so frazzled by the time the guests started arriving, I didn't even care anymore.
You'd think someone would have bothered to tell me 
that my bra was showing.  
It's cool though, I see how you are.

Sewing, she is a fickle mistress.  She lifts you up and lets you think you're amazing when you hem your jeans properly, only to dash you to the rocks when you approach her again.

I'm giving my machine some space before I attempt another project.  I think she's mad at me right now.

If the baby cooperates, I'll do another post this afternoon or tonight about the decorations and her presents because I'm so incredibly touched by the generosity of my blog friends! You guys are the best!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Birthday breakdown: Like a (cake) boss

Yesterday my baby became a toddler.
Such a big girl.

We took tons of videos of her walking and as I was watching them over and over again, I completely burst into tears.  "She's going to grow up and leave me!!"  All day yesterday, I alternated between being elated that she was walking and that she's healthy and happy, and being so very sad that this is happening so fast.

However, there are lots of birthday stories to tell and it was a great birthday indeed!  We all worked so ridiculously hard to make it a great day and we totally pulled it off!  

Sort of.  Allow me to explain.

Let's start with the cake.

Thank the baby Jesus I had lots of sweets.  For some reason, I was paranoid about not having enough sweets to go around, so I ordered 24 petit fours, I made 24 cupcakes and I attempted two cakes.  And we bought several packages of little cookies from World Market just so we were covered in the sweets department.

I was not giving up on my pink cake and I would make it if it was the last thing I did!  Once again, I made my cakes.  Once again, I played with the food coloring, adding red to the pink to really make it stand out.  And with them cooling in my neighbor's fridge, I turned to the strawberry cake.
Because I didn't have enough to do, why not make two cakes, one of them from scratch!

Baking is a precise thing, not like cooking.  There is no improvising in baking, which is why I prefer it.  Measurements are exact, cooking times don't vary that much and there's no 'pinch of this, dab of that' nonsense.

So why did I ignore the very precise instructions calling for a specific pan to bake this cake?  

I don't own a springform pan and it made four layers, so I thought I could get away with putting the cake in four round pans and call it a day.
I even used my fancy new (to me) mixer that my mommy gave me!
She had it but never really used it so she gave it to me!
Four layers, four pans.  Who needs a springform pan anyway?
Apparently, I do.

The cakes that weren't burnt were hard like cookies!  I had run an errand and asked my mom to take them out when they were done and when she met me at the door, I knew something was wrong.  "I don't want you to be upset about your cakes."  Which meant I was totally upset.  It was the day before the party and my visions of a sweets-laden cake table were vanishing.

Which is why my husband is my hero. 

He got up at 5:30 the morning of the party and made the cakes again, this time with the right pan.  I asked around and a couple of my mom friends had springform pans that I borrowed and Drew did it right this time.  He totally saved the day!

Except I didn't get to serve the strawberry cake at the party because I ran out of time.  I finished it the next day and now that I've made it, I know there was no way I would have been able to do both.  It's a very labor-intensive cake and the cream cheese frosting definitely made it runny.  There's no way it would have stood up to the heat of an outdoor party.
I placed all those strawberries by hand.
Even in the air-conditioned house, it was already starting to run.
Oh well, we get an E for effort and it did taste good, 
thanks to the 50,000 pounds of sugar in it.

Now, the other cake?  My pink cake that caused me woe and heartache?
I did it!!

I don't quite know what happened to the bottom layer, but I am more than pleased with how it turned out.  It got devoured and everyone said it was delicious!  It didn't fall apart, the colors were great and I was soo happy with it!

Amy Barry will have all the professional pictures and I'm sure her pictures will make it look even better but I couldn't wait to share these.  These are more behind the scenes, if you will.

What's even better, in a stroke of genius (if I do say so myself), I saved the extra parts I cut off for Sofia's smash cake.  I bought a small round cake pan, took all the pieces I cut and smashed them into the mold.  Then I turned it over onto a plate, iced it with the cool whip and voila, smash cake that was already ready to fall apart.
She was so excited for her cake!
This is an Amy Barry picture - you can tell because it's not crappy.
Figuring out what to do with it.
Photo courtesy Amy Barry
Smash cake success.  Hands down, my most favorite part of the party!

Now that I think about it, there were things that 'went wrong' with every part of the party from the cake to the decorations, even with my outfit.  But it turned out to be such a great day that I don't think anyone noticed.

At least I hope not.

Next up, my sewing success and failure and why DIY isn't always the best route.


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