Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Handmade Sesame Street Invitations inspired by Pinterest

A couple of weeks ago, I shared some photos from Grace's 3rd Birthday Party.  Since Grace LOVES Sesame Street, we chose a Sesame Street theme for her party this year. 

I was having trouble finding party items that I liked at the party supply stores.  Mainly because it seemed that a lot of the decorations and supplies were designed for FIRST birthdays. 

Since I was trying to keep costs as low as possible, I decided to check my craft supplies and see what I had to make our own invitations. 

In addition to being low on funds, I was also short on time.  I really got a late start on party planning this year and had to get the invitations made up and mailed on the same day! 

To help me get motivated, I decided to check out Pinterest to look for some inspiration.  That's when I found this handmade Elmo invitation.  Our party wasn't focusing on any one particular character from the long-running kids' program, so I knew I wanted to do something similar but for a variety of furry characters. 

After "borrowing" pack of Grace's stickers and searching my stash for coordinating bright colors, this is what I came up with:

They were pretty easy once I figured out the color combinations.  It's been a long time since I purchased new craft supplies, so I had to improvise and switch up a couple of the color combos in order to make the needed number of invites. 

Aside from choosing colors, the only other time-consuming aspect was choosing the fonts I wanted for the invitations.  After downloading some FREE fonts from free font websites, I printed out the party information on white cardstock and was ready to assemble the invitations and get them mailed out! 

I had just enough time to snap a couple of quick photos of them spread out over the kitchen table before having to address them to our guests.  Since I was running out of time, I just used plain white envelopes that I had in my office supply cabinet, rather than the color coordinated ones in my inspiration photo. 

Working on this little project reminded me how much I love and miss crafting.  Hopefully, soon I'll be able to work on a few other projects I've been wanting to start. 

You may notice that I used similar ribbon on the invitations I made for Grace's first birthday.  I've gotten a lot of mileage from my ribbon stash and still have plenty more to use on future craft projects! 

I've linked this post to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Polish Cabbage Noodles ~ An Easy and Frugal Meal

Last week, we tried a new recipe that I saw while browsing through Sarah's blog, Frugal By Choice, Cheap By Necessity.  I don't quite remember how I happened to stumble across her blog, but the name intrigued me since I'm constantly searching for frugal tips and ideas.  I certainly wasn't disappointed! 

After reading her Polish Cabbage Noodles recipe, I knew I wanted to try it.  After reading that it made a ton, I wanted to try it right away and added a head of cabbage to our shopping list! 

Joe and I love cabbage, we just don't eat it as often as we should.  As much as we enjoy it, I just tend to forget about it.  I really need to find more cabbage recipes so we can enjoy it more often! 

In addition to making a ton and being very tasty, this recipe is also frugal and super-easy to make!  Also, it can be used as a side dish or even as a main dish!  I followed the recipe almost completely, but just as I started to prepare dinner, I decided to add some turkey bacon to the pan!  Mmmmm! 

Polish Cabbage Noodles

  • 1/2 head cabbage, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup butter, divided
  • 1/2 of a 16 oz bag wide egg noodles, cooked
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pack of turkey bacon, diced
  • Saute cabbage and onion in 1/4 cup butter over medium heat, salt & pepper to taste.
  • When the veggies are tender, add the diced turkey bacon and continue cooking until bacon is done. 
  • Add in cooked noodles and 1/4 cup butter, stirring until well-combined and butter is melted. 
  • This made 4 main-dish servings, which for us is two nights' dinners! 
  • While we enjoyed this a lot the first night, it tasted better the next night!  The flavors were better combined after being stored in the fridge overnight! 
  • suggests adding hot sauce and garlic salt and I agree.  I forgot to grab the garlic salt from the pantry and decided to leave it out.  The recipe was tasty without it, but since we love garlic, I'm sure it will be extra yummy with the addition!  I'm thinking red pepper flakes would be a good addition as well. 
  • I added turkey bacon since I had half of a package in the fridge.  Ham or even kielbasa would be also be perfect added to this dish. 
See?  Easy right?  Frugal right?  Heck, it's down right CHEAP!!!  I'll be preparing this again! 

I've linked this recipe post to the following blog hops and linky carnivals: 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2012 ~ Week of May 28th

I almost forgot that today is Monday (that usually happens on the weekends Joe works), so now I am scrambling to come up with a quick menu plan for this week!  I'm keeping our menu simple this week, mainly because I'm exhausted but also because I'm working on the menu plan for next month. 

With being outside with Grace so much during the summer, I think it will just be easier to plan a month's worth of meals.  I plan on using my crock pot a lot this summer, too!  I plan to just throw something in the crock in the morning (or even prep it the night before) and let it cook while we're out playing and gardening.  That way, when I come in all tired, hot and sweaty, I won't have to worry about what's for dinner. 

But for now, I just want to plan a few easy meals for this week, that way I can focus on my Summer Menu post and work on a shopping list, too! 

Here's what's planned for this week: 

  • Salmon Burgers, Potato Salad, Cole Slaw, corn on the cob.  Yummy barbecue food for what's left of our holiday weekend! 

  • Rotisserie Chicken, Grilled Potatoes, garden salad.  Grace will eat the leftovers from this chicken for most of the week, but we'll all enjoy it the first night with our favorite grilled potatoes (I'll be telling you all about them in a future post)! 

  • French Toast, Turkey Bacon, Smoothies.  Grace wasn't very interested in bananas last week and an entire bunch started getting spotty, so I chopped them up and popped them in the freezer for smoothies.  Sadly, Grace won't try the smoothies, but Joe and I will really enjoy them with our Breakfast for Dinner! 
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Oven Fries, salad.  This is another of Grace's favorite meals.  She eats almost an entire Grilled Cheese!  Crusts and all! 

So, there you have it.  Our easy peasy menu plan for the week leading up to the month of June!  I hope you check back later this week to see what I have planned for our Summer Menu Plan. 

Now that you know what we're eating this week, please share your menu ideas in the comment section of this post!

Need more menu planning inspiration? Follow me over to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie! Or, if you like what you see here, you can check out my past menu plans

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Nappy Time and Orange Flowers

We had beautiful weather last weekend and we all spent the afternoon in the backyard after running errands on Sunday morning. 

Grace loves playing outside and since it was warm, Joe filled up her small plastic pool.  I wish I would have taken a few pictures of her splashing and playing, but my camera was in the house in my purse.  Joe was busy working with power-tools (building our garden boxes and hanging a window box) so I didn't want to leave Miss Grace to go digging in my purse for my camera. 

After about almost 2 hours, I figured Grace didn't have a drop of sunscreen left on her body, so I scooped her up and carried her into the house.  Although, she protested very loudly about having to come in, she didn't waste any time climbing up onto the couch and asking for a pillow and blanket once I took her wet bathing suit off and had her in a dry diaper. 

Within minutes, she was sound asleep!  She must have been super-tired since she is only wearing a diaper.  Normally, Grace insists on being dressed at all times.  Also, she rarely falls asleep on the couch.


While she napped, I took the opportunity to fill the window box we picked up at Home Depot earlier that morning.  It's hanging under my kitchen window (at the front of the house). 

Grace picked out the marigolds and calls them her "orange flowers" and so far every day this week, we've had to go around front to see her "orange flowers". 

Although, I worked at a flower shop for 15+ years, I don't have much of a green thumb.  So, this is my first time planting anything.  I don't think it turned out too bad!  After getting the plants in the dirt, I realized that some sort of viney plant would look great in the front but we didn't get a chance to get back to the garden center so far this week.  Hopefully, this weekend we can pick up either a vinca vine or sweet potato vine to add to the window box. 

I've linked this post to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Frozen Yogurt Tubes instead of Popsicles

Today's tip comes from a long-time friend of mine.  She also happens to be Joe's niece.  We also share the same first name!  Alison always seems to have some clever little tip or trick when it comes to kids and this one is my all-time favorite! 

Last summer, Grace was obsessed with freeze-pops.  You know, the clear plastic tubes filled with frozen juice?  When I say obsessed, I mean it!  She would wake up asking for a freeze pop.  If I walked anywhere near the fridge, she asked for a freeze pop.  Even after she ate one, she STILL asked for a freeze pop. 

When the stores in our area sold out at the end of the season, it took many, many days of her begging and screaming asking, to convince her that we didn't have any more freeze pops!  Once she finally forgot about them she was fine. 

That is, until January when ordered some Chinese food and she found the tiny plastic packets of soy sauce, duck sauce and hot mustard.  She was convinced they were freeze pops!  Oh my!  That started another week or so of her asking for freeze pops. 

Anyway, in talking to Joe's niece about Grace's obsession with freeze pops, she told me that she freezes those tubes of drinkable yogurt.  When her son asks for a freeze pop, she takes one of the tubes of yogurt from the freezer and cuts it in half.  The perfect-sized "freeze pop" for toddlers!  And a bit healthier than those sugary, juice-filled tubes! 

This has come in handy in recent weeks and not only due to the warmer weather.  Grace hasn't been eating much, but I can almost always convince her to eat a few of the yogurt "freeze pops" throughout the day.  So, if nothing else, she's at least eating some yogurt (disguised as freeze pops!).

I've linked this tip to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chicken, Beans and Rice Casserole

Don't forget!  Tuesday is the last day to enter our current giveaways posted at the top of the page.  Easy entries until 10pm Tuesday night! 

Since we moved from the city almost 5 years ago, we've been living on a single income.  Higher living expenses and less pay.  One of the ways we've changed our spending is to only buy meats when they are on sale rather than just because we're in the mood for a particular meal. 

Chicken is pretty much the only type of meat we have in the freezer at all times.  Regardless of it being on sale or not, chicken is a must have item in our home since it's the only meat (and one of the handful of foods) Grace will eat. 

The last two times our local market had boneless chicken breast on sale, Joe bought 2 packs each time.  Last week, we still had 3 family-packs in the freezer.  While I planned on poaching 2 of the chicken breasts for Grace, I wanted something a little different for us adults. 

Joe and I  both like dishes that contain rice and/or beans, so I knew I wanted to try the Chicken, Pinto Bean and Rice Casserole that I saw posted over at Family Balance Sheet.  Since I wanted to keep the grocery bill low last week, I decided to make a few substitutions based on what I had in the pantry and what I was in the mood for.

My only concern for this dish was that the rice wouldn't turn out.  Sometimes I'm rice-challenged, meaning it doesn't always turn out the way it should.  But, in this case, the rice cooked perfectly! 

The photo below is just of the rice and bean mixture.  By the time I got dinner on the table, I was too hungry to worry about snapping a photo.  When I finally remembered to snap a picture of the leftovers, the chicken had already been eaten for lunch earlier that day. 

Chicken, Beans and Rice Casserole

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast*
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (16 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (10 oz) can Rotel
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice
  • shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a 6-qt. dutch oven (or large, oven-safe pot), heat oil over medium heat. 
  • Add chicken, cook for about 5 minutes per side. 
  • Remove chicken from oil and set aside.
  • Add the diced pepper, onions and garlic to the hot oil and cook until tender. Stir often, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits of browned chicken.  
  • Stir in the spices, broth, beans, Rotel, salsa and corn. 
  • Bring to a simmer, then add rice. 
  • Stir to combine.
  • Add the chicken back to the pot. 
  • Cover and move pot to the oven to continue cooking for 20 minutes or until rice is tender, liquid is absorbed and chicken is cooked through. 
  • Serve as is or topped with your choice of sour cream, shredded cheese or salsa.   
  • I loved the addition of the chili powder and corn to this recipe.  Definitely one of our favorite combinations. 
  • As stated in the original recipe, you can use whatever variety of beans you like.  While I would have loved to prepare this with pinto beans, I didn't have them in my pantry.  Black beans worked wonderfully, especially with the corn! 
  • The original recipe called for chicken thighs, I used chicken breast since that's what we had in the freezer.  I would definitely consider either using thighs as originally suggested or even possibly marinate the chicken breast overnight, to keep it from drying out.  I even think cutting the chicken into bite-sized pieces before cooking would be a great in stretching the chicken a bit further once it's stirred into the rice and bean mixture. 

This recipe is a keeper and we'll be making this again keeping in mind the chicken suggestions stated above.  We loved that this recipe made a lot!  Also, suggested over at Family Balance Sheet:  the rice and bean mixture makes a great filling for burritos! 

I've linked this recipe to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

Menu Plan Monday 2012 ~ Week of May 21st

Is it really Monday already?  Seriously?  I am sooo not ready for it to be Monday.  It's going to be such a loooong week since Joe's schedule has him working 6 days this week.  Sigh. 

I know I shouldn't complain and that there are so many things that I should be thankful for, like the fact that we have a steady income and that I'm able to stay home with our daughter.  But just for a moment today, I feel like whining about it being a dreary Monday.  I think I was spoiled with all of the beautiful sunshine we had over the weekend.  The grey skies already have me feeling deprived of vitamin d!  (Or it could be a side-affect of not enough hours of sleep last night!) 

Okay, I think I'm finished whining for a little while.  At least maybe long enough to talk about menu planning. 

I thought I was doing really well and even started to write this week's menu early last week.  But, that was based on us preparing a turkey over the weekend.  For two weeks in a row, I failed to dig that sucker out of the chest freezer.  By the time I found room to thaw it in the fridge on Wednesday, Joe wan't convinced it would be thawed in time to be cooked on Sunday.  Good thing!  The few meals we prepared last week provided enough leftovers to get us through the entire week.  We're even eating them for lunches this week. 

We're probably breaking several rules on how long leftovers are safe to eat when stored in the fridge.  Joe is usually the one to eat leftovers past the recommended time frame, but I'm giving in this week and finishing up the last of a couple of dishes.  I am just so tired of wasting food.  Sure, I could have frozen the leftovers, but then that would just be more stuff piled up on top of top of the turkey!

Over the weekend, I had a chance to browse a few blogs looking for both healthy and budget friendly meals and decided that we'll give 2 new recipes a try this week.  After several dinners consisting of leftovers last week, the new recipes will be a refreshing change!   

Here's what I'm planning to serve this week: 

  • Barbecue Chicken Salad Wraps.  Using chicken we picked up at a Chicken Barbecue held in our town over the weekend, I'll put together this yummy chicken salad and serve on wraps.  I think I'll add black beans to it this time!  We have some potato salad and cole slaw left, too. 

  • Escarole and Beans.  I want to start including beans to our weekly menu plans.  A lot of times I do this without even trying since we tend to eat a lot of baked beans or chili.  But, since we don't eat those meals every week, I want to prepare other recipes to get more beans into our meals.  There are so many great recipes available online that it shoudn't be too difficult.  Plus, we really like beans.  I found this recipe last week and since I have most of the ingredients on hand, I figured we'd give it a try this week.  I'll need a bunch of excarole, but depending on the price, I might take the writer's suggestion and substitute with spinach. 

  • Tuna Salad Club Sandwiches, fries, green salad.  Since I have a bunch of celery, carrots and onions on hand, I think it would be a good time to mix up some tuna salad.  I'll cook up some Turkey Bacon to stack in our club sandwiches. 

  • Breakfast for Dinner.  Since we'll surely have leftover turkey bacon, we might as well have some eggs and fried potatoes to serve along with it!  It helps that I have 2 dozen eggs in the fridge, too!  I'll also serve some fruit and yogurt. 

  • Polish Cabbage Noodles.  Here's another new recipe that I'm looking forward to trying.  We love cabbage and Grace loves noodles, so I think this will be a perfect match for us.  Of course, I'll have to set aside some plain noodles before I add anything like cabbage or onion to it.  But it's a compromise I'm willing to make so it won't be like I'm preparing 2 completely different meals in one night! 

  • Memorial Day Weekend.  Since Joe is working part of the weekend and on-call for the rest of it, we haven't fully decided what we're going to do yet.  We'll probably just wing it for meals for the weekend.  Burgers, dogs, wings...something like that! 

    So, now you know what we're eating this week! Please share your menu ideas in the comment section of this post!

    Need more menu planning inspiration? Follow me over to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie! Or, if you like what you see here, you can check out my past menu plans.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday ~ Play Like a Pirate! Argh!

Grace has loved all things pirate for about a year and a half now.  So much so, that Argh! was one of her first words!  She could tell us what sound an elephant makes, what does a doggy say, and what does a pirate say?! 

While I'm thrilled that Grace is a girly-girl, I am very pleased that she doesn't always have to be a "princess"! 

My parents were stumped as to what to get Grace for her birthday this year and asked for some ideas.  Remembering how much Grace enjoyed her first water table from a couple of years ago and adding in her love of pirates, I knew that a larger water table, shaped like a pirate ship would be the perfect gift for my parents to give her. 

It was really chilly the weekend (and week following) her birthday, so we first set it up in the living room.  Without water.  :)  She enjoyed playing with it a lot, so I knew she would be really thrilled once it was outside and filled with water! 

I wasn't wrong!  She loves it!  Thanks, Mommom and Pop! 

The photo I'm sharing with you today, is from Friday.  The weather was finally warm enough for splashing in some water!  This is before she really started getting soaked...and the first of three DRY outfits that day! 

Happy Wordless Wednesday! 

I've linked this post to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Reuse Take-Out Containers

If you are a regular here, Under the Big Oak Tree, you probably know that Joe and I enjoy ordering Chinese Food to celebrate special occasions.  Rather than going out to dinner (something we don't do much since Grace was born) or cooking an elaborate meal (who wants to clean up that mess on Valentine's Day?), we choose a few things that we like from the menu and Joe will pick it up on his way home from work. 

We love Chinese Food and could eat it every day if our budget allowed for it.  Sometimes we splurge and order just because we're in the mood, but we try not to over-do it.  But as far as take-out goes, it's the most frugal of our choices since there are ALWAYS leftovers!  And since we always get appetizers in addition to our entrees, we can usually get 2 nights' dinners and at least one day of lunch (sometimes 2 days' worth) from our one take-out order. 

Then, after all of the leftovers are finished, we're left with some really handy storage bowls! 

While Chinese Food wouldn't be the same without those traditonal cardboard boxes filled with different rices or noodles, I loved it when most Chinese Restaurants replaced those foil take-out containers that are always a pain in the butt to get the lid back on, with these re-usable, plastic containers. 

I love these containers and use them for everything! 

During the winter months, when I'm making a bunch of soups, stews or chilis, I tend to use a lot of the same ingredients.  Rather than have to chop vegetables each day for each new recipe, I like to check my recipes and chop what I need for each recipe.  Same goes for summer months when I'm making potato salads or macaroni salads.

I then separate the vegetables by recipe.  Putting all the veggies I need for the soup recipe in one container, the veggies for stew in the second, and so on.

I then take out my dry-erase marker and write the name of the recipe on the lid making it easy for me to just grab the container I need on the night I'm making each meal.   

Sometimes I only have a small window of opportunity to get dinner started.   And if Grace is fussy, I just don't have the patience for chopping and measuring vegetables in addition to measuring out spices and other ingredients.  This method makes preparing meals much easier for me. 

And since I use dry-erase markers, the containers can continue being re-used in a bunch of other ways, making me feel slightly better about splurging on take-out! 

  • Store leftovers in the fridge.  These are one of the few containers that will fit on the shelf under my deli meat bin. 
  • Send leftovers home with family and friends.  Since they aren't "part of a set,"  I don't mind that I won't get them back. 
  • Use for packed lunches.  They are the perfect size for Joe's lunch.  Sometimes Joe forgets to take a used lunch bowl out of  the truck for a few days.  In the winter, it's not so bad.  But in the summer, some of those containers can get pretty gross from sitting in the hot truck all day with bits of food still inside.  With these containers, I don't mind tossing them if they're just a bit too funky for me to want to deal with. 
  • They are also great for gift giving.  Small batches of Christmas cookies fit perfectly in these containers.  Put a simple bow on top to give it a more festive look!  A few years ago, I made chocolate covered strawberries for Easter.  I gave some to a few friends in these take-out containers. 

I've linked this post to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2012 ~ Week of May 14th


I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day yesterday.

Personally, I had mixed feelings about yesterday!  Mainly, because I only had about 2 hours of sleep the night before.  Grace occasionally wakes up in wee hours of the night looking for Joe.  He gets up early to leave for work and she likes to see him before he leaves.  But, she internal alarm clock was way off on Sunday morning...not to mention the fact that Joe wasn't going to work.  Usually when this happens, she falls back to sleep after he sits and talks with her for a few minutes.  Not this time.  As much as we tried to get her to sleep or play quietly while we slept, she just got louder and louder.  Finally, I gave in at 5:00 and turned on the TV in the living room and hung out on the couch while she watched Disney Junior. 

Besides being so incredibly tired, Mother's Day was very nice.  Joe surprised me with a flower delivery on Friday.  Two dozen beautiful roses from my little Grace!  They are so pretty and have are beautifully fragrant! 

In addition to the roses from Grace (and Joe), my Mom and my niece came over and planted some plants in my garden!  You see, I have no clue when it comes to gardening.  Plus, after moving here 5 years ago, we haven't had extra money for plants and landscaping.  Mom helped out by bringing some plants from her beautiful gardens and planting them in our empty flower bed!  Thanks, Mom!  They are beautiful!  (Don't worry friends, I'll share photos here soon!) 

Such a wonderful day, even though I felt like crawling back into bed for most of the day! 

Now onto the reason we're here today:  Menu Planning! 

We didn't follow last week's menu to the letter last week, but didn't do too badly considering I've been away from menu planning lately! 

This week, I'll be making a few of our own tried and true meals in addition to trying a new recipe.  It's been a long time since I've tried anything new and since I've been feeling like we're in a dinner-time rut, I think it's about time! 

Here's what I'm planning for this week: 

  • Hot dogs, Baked Beans and baked potatoes.  We've been in the mood for baked beans lately.  I threw a quick batch together and let it cook overnight in the crock pot.  I used some of the leftover turkey bacon from last week's BLTs in place of the bacon crumbles that I normally use in my beans.  Since hot dogs are on sale this week, Joe picked up a pack to go with the crock of beans.  Some baked potatoes will go nicely with this comfort food meal! 

  • Spaghetti with All Day Crock Pot Meat Sauce, garlic bread, salad.  Grace has been in a meal-time rut lately, too.  Poor kid is getting bored with the handful of foods that she will actually eat.  I think it's time for a pot of spaghetti!  She really enjoys it and it seems like it's been a while since we've had it for dinner. 

  • BBQ Chicken.  A local organization is hosting their annual Chicken Barbecue this weekend.  This is THE BEST barbecue chicken ever!  Mainly because I don't have to cook!  haha!  Seriously, it's very tasty!  Instead of eating there, we usually order ours to-go.  We usually pick up some potato salad and coleslaw, too. 

  • Cheesey Spanish Rice Bake, Steamed Broccoli, Cauliflower & Carrots, leftover BBQ Chicken.  Since I know we'll have leftover chicken, I'll make this rice casserole to serve with the leftovers.  I've made this casserole a few times and love how easy it is to make!  I'll probably add some black beans to it to bulk it up a bit! 

  • Turkey, Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus.  Since I never did find the time to dig that turkey out of the chest freezer, we never got around to having our turkey dinner.  We didn't really end up having the time to cook it anyway, so I guess it's a good thing I didn't thaw it.  Since I need the room in the freezer, I'm determined to get it out of there this week! 

So, now you know what we're eating this week!  Please share your menu ideas in the comment section of this post! 

Need more menu planning inspiration?  Follow me over to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie!  Or, if you like what you see here, you can check out my past menu plans

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grace Turns 3

Earlier while editing a few photos from Grace's 3rd birthday, I realized that I haven't posted anything about her 2nd birthday.  I'll have to share them with you soon. 

But for now, let's talk about Grace's Sesame Street 3rd Birthday Party! 

This was our first character party.  You might remember that we threw a Sweet Shoppe party for Grace's 1st Birthday.  We went with a similar "generic" theme for her 2nd Birthday (I'll share the details about that party soon!) 
I chose a Sesame Street theme this year since there aren't too many years left where she will ADORE the characters the way she does now.  I also figured that this will be my last year choosing the theme of Grace's party.  That doesn't mean I won't try to steer her towards themes that I'd prefer! 

Like Grace's Sweet Shoppe Party, I hand-made the invitations using supplies I already had in my craft room. 

I was really pleased with the way they turned out, especially since I was running late and had to get them finished in just a few hours! 

Since the party was outside, I didn't want to spend too much on decorations that would just blow around in the breeze.  Instead, I picked up a really cool Sesame Street scene setter that we hung our back patio.  And since Grace loves to watch Elmo's World, I decided to use her easel to write a birthday message for her on the white board side.  But in the end, she liked "Gracie's World" better. 

I then filled Grace's wagon with the favors for the guests.  For the toddlers, we filled Sesame Street tote bags with sidewalk chalk, cookies, ring pops and assorted Sesame Street favors including rubber duckies.  For the tweens and teens, we made smaller favor bags using paper lunch sacks that I tied using ribbon that coordinated with the invitations. 

Deciding on a cake was the most difficult part of planning this party.  A year ago, I saw that one of my cousins made the most adorable Elmo cake and character cupcakes, but it turned out she was out of town the weekend of the party. So, I looked and looked and really had a tough time finding a cake that I liked. 

Joe and I went to our local supermarket and after I described what I was looking for, they came up with this: 

We were really pleased with how it turned out and Grace really enjoyed seeing her favorite characters on her birthday cake! 

Every year, for Grace's party, I dress her in something festive.  The birthday t-shirts on the Carter's website are great paired with a colorful tutu! 

This year, I found the perfect dress for Grace from Annalie's Baby Boutique on Etsy and knew right away that I wanted her to wear it for her Sesame Street party! 

Here, Grace is posing for a picture in her wagon.  The front of her dress is a bit scrunched up, hopefully my sister-in-law managed to get a better photo of her in her dress! 

In the past, the weather has always been warm for her party.  I planned on running around barefoot with a pair of white shorts under her dress.  But, it turned out being chillier than I anticipated.  Luckily, I had a pair of white leggings for her to wear under her dress.  And instead of shoes, she wore slippers so she could keep them on in the bouncy house.  I wish I would have thought ahead and purchased Elmo slippers! 

Grace had a wonderful time with her family and friends!  Joe and I really enjoyed watching her play and interact with everyone! 

While she's always enjoyed herself at her other parties, this was the first year that she knew that this party was ALL ABOUT HER! 

I've linked this post to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Giveaway: V8 V-Fusion Sparkling Prize Pack ***Giveaway Closed***

In my constant quest to live a healthier lifestyle, I'm always looking for healthier options for the not-so-healthy foods I love!  The same goes for beverages.

I've mentioned before that Diet Pepsi is most often my drink of choice.  Waters and juices just don't cut it for me.  I think it's because they lack that carbonation that I love so much! 

Recently, I was asked if I wanted to try the new V8 V-Fusion Sparkling Juice Drinks!  Of course, I said "Yes!" right away!  I love trying new products and I thought this just might be a wonderful, healthy alternative to all of those diet sodas I drink! 

The new addition to the V8 V-Fusion product line is available in 3 flavors: 
  • Black Cherry Pomegranate
  • Strawberry Lemonade
  • Tangerine Raspberry
I was especially excited to try the Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade and just as I thought, this was my favorite of the 2 flavors I tried!  Perfectly refreshing for a warm day, with just the right amount of carbonation to make me think I'm drinking a soda, and all for just 60 calories!  Plus each 8-ounce can provides a combined serving of fruits and vegetables!   

As always, V8 has put together a wonderful prize package to send along with their V8 V-Fusion Sparkling Juice Drinks and I get to share one with one lucky Under the Big Oak Tree reader!


Prize Information: ***giveaway is now closed***
One lucky reader will receive a V8 V-Fusion Sparlking Prize Pack which includes the following: 
  • V8 V-Fusion Sparkling
  • Gaiam Yoga/Gym Tote
  • Philosophy Raspberry Bubble Bath
  • $25 Sephora Gift Card
  • Esse Nail Polish
  • a vesatile to-go cup
Entry Information:  ***giveaway is now closed***
This entry is mandatory.  After completing this entry, you can continue on to earn additional entries. 
  • Leave a comment on this post, telling my your favorite V8 product.  Or if V8 is new to you, let me know what V8 product you'd most like to try. 

Additional Entries:  ***giveaway is now closed***
After completing the mandatory entry above, you can then earn additional entries.  Be sure to leave a comment for each completed task below, as your comment is your entry.  Also, don't forget to include your email address so I can contact you if you win! 

Givaway Rules and Reminders: 
  • This giveaway ends Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 10:00 pm EST. 
  • Giveaway open to US residents only. 
  • Mandatory Entry must be completed first before earning additional entries. 
  • Winner will be chosen via and will be contacted by email.  Winner will then have 48 hours to provide contact information or another winner will be selected. 
  • Don't forget to leave a seperate comment for each entry, since each (qualifiying) comment counts as a seperate entry. 
  • Don't forget to provide your email address in order for us to contact you if you win! 

  • I was not financially compensated for this review.  The sponsor provided me with a non-returnable prize pack including samples of the product mentioned in this review.  The sponsor is also providing the same prize pack for the lucky winner of this giveaway.  All opinions and thoughts mentioned in this post are honest and my own. 

Giveaway: Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ ~ Let's Get Grilling!

I don't know about you, but I sure am looking forward to Memorial Day Weekend!  For me, the holiday weekend always means the start of summer.  Especially, when I was a kid.  After the holiday weekend, the last few weeks of school were always fun-filled and full of excitement as we looked forward to summer vacation! 

Now, as an adult, I look forward to Memorial Day because it's the weekend that all of the family cook-outs start and run every weekend throughout the summer! 

Sure, we grill all year long but not the big, family-filled barbecues like during the summer!  I'm really looking forward to filling my freezer with burgers, hotdogs, chicken and steaks!  I also need to place an order with Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ and restock my pantry in order for it to be ready for the grilling season! 

If you're a regular here, you probably remember me telling you about my family's favorite barbecue sauces and dry rubs

Well, in honor of Memorial Day and the start of grilling season, the kind people at Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ are allowing me to share their great products with one lucky winner!   

Prize Information: 

One lucky reader will receive a bottle of Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ Sauce and a jar of dry rub in the flavors of their choice! 

Entry Information: 
This entry is mandatory.  After completing this entry, you may continue on to earn additional entries.
  • Visit Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ and tell me in a comment on this post which flavor barbecue sauce and dry rub you would like to win.  

Additional Entries:
After completing the mandatory entry above, you can then earn additional entries. Be sure to leave a comment for each completed task below, as your comment is your entry. Also, don't forget to include your email address so I can contact you if you win! 

Giveaway Rules and Reminders:
  • This giveaway ends Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 10:00 pm EST. 
  • Giveaway open to residents of the US and Canada only. 
  • Mandatory Entry must be completed first before earning additional entries. 
  • Winner will be chosen via and will be contacted by email. Winner will then have 48 hours to provide contact information or another winner will be selected. 
  • Don't forget to leave a seperate comment for each entry, since each (qualifiying) comment counts as a seperate entry. 
  • Don't forget to provide your email address in order for us to contact you if you win! 

  • I was not financially compensated for providing this giveaway.  The sponsor was kind enough to provide the products that are the prize for this giveaway.  Any opinions or thoughts mentioned in this post are honest and my own. 

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