Tag Archives: birthdays

It’s February Vacation Week: Welcome [Back] to the Jungle!

18 Feb
Vacation week idea: Let them write on all your windows, mirrors and doors!

Vacation week idea: Let them write on all your windows, mirrors and doors!

Not every school system has February Vacation Week, but ours does. A lot of people dread vacation weeks, but I look forward to the break. I like having my kids home with me and I like the break from all the stress and running around.

At work, Don gets a lot done through the week while the school building is quiet and it airs out from all the flu and virus germs that fill it all winter.

However, if you’re home for the week you may be looking for ways to fill the time. I find that no matter what, the week flies by, but it helps to have some fun little ideas in your back pocket, just to be safe.

Valentine’s Day was just last week so we have received some new games, crafts and activities which will be perfect for this week. As with last year’s Welcome to the Jungle posts, I’ve decided to feature some of the things we’re doing throughout the week, passing along any fun ideas to you.

Today’s activity idea is one that may or may not shock you: if your kids are bored, let them draw on all your windows, mirrors and glass doors!

Yup, that’s right: day one and I’ve already lost my mind.

Fun gift idea and February Vacation activity!

Fun gift idea and February Vacation activity!

Elizabeth received a new activity as a Valentine’s Gift from my mom and dad this weekend. The Crayola Crystal Effects Window Markers were an instant hit when the girls opened them up. We let them use any glass surface: windows, mirrors and the sliding glass door served as their canvasses.

It was so awesome.

The mirror in our bathroom is huge, a perfect place to try out the new markers.

The mirror in our bathroom is huge, a perfect place to try out the new markers.

The way the markers work is simple: you write on your chosen glass surface and then watch as right before your eyes the regular-looking marker turns into a beautiful crystalized image.

As you watch, it actually looks as if the image is moving while it changes. It’s very, very cool.

We had friends over on Sunday with kids of their own and we let the girls take out the markers while their friends were here and they all seemed to have a blast with them, even the one boy out of the group had a great time, so it’s definitely something a boy would enjoy also.

The one issue we had with using the markers in the bathroom was that we left the artwork up during showers.


It all dripped down the mirror and we had to take it off and start over again. It actually says on the box not to use it in a high humidity area, such as a bathroom. But, our bathroom mirror is so huge, we did it again anyway, but this time we’ll wash it off before the next shower.

You can see how the writing goes on like a regular-looking marker before turning to the crystal effects.

You can see how the writing goes on like a regular-looking marker before turning to the crystal effects.

Which leads me to my next tip: taking off the artwork.

You can take it off very simply with a wet paper towel, followed by a dry one to wipe off any remaining residue. Those are the instructions on the box, and it worked just as they said.

Mirrors seemed to be the best option for us because the windows tend to be cold, at least in the winter, and the crystal effects take longer to work when the glass is cold.

Mirrors seemed to be the best option for us because the windows tend to be cold, at least in the winter, and the crystal effects take longer to work when the glass is cold.

I’d definitely keep this in my arsenal of birthday gift ideas for the future, it was lots of fun and it’s a gift that they can use over and over again, each time with a different result.

Although I don’t know the cost of these, I am pretty sure I’ll be able to find them in my local craft store, and most likely be able to use a coupon for them there.

I think these markers have tons of potential in our house! I can foresee writing special birthday messages on mirrors or windows, or writing fun messages for special house guests when they visit our home, the way we write on our message boards and chalk boards.

If you’ve ever used the Crayola Crystal Effects Window Markers yourself and you have any fun tips or activities to share, leave a comment and let us know! We have all week to experiment with them!

Our bathroom has a mirrored medicine cabinet and a huge mirror, double the fun!

Our bathroom has a mirrored medicine cabinet and a huge mirror, double the fun!

Thinking outside the birthday party box

21 May

Birthday parties for kids can have a tendency to take on a life of their own.

Our family is full of rules.

We more often say no than yes, it seems, and we have a rule for everything.

We can’t help it, that’s just how we are and it works for us, at least for now. That being said, we have birthday party rules at our house. I know I’ve talked about it before, but I’ll tell again just so I can get on with my story for today.

Our rules are as follows: You can’t have a “friend party” until you are five and when you do, you can have it at the house with five kids. At six, seven, eight and nine, you can have your birthday party out of the house, with more people (within reason, and we never invite the entire class or grade, or even “all the girls”).

At ten you’re back to having it at the house with just a few people. We like the “Almost Sleepover” or “Mock Sleepover” (come in pj’s stay late, go home to bed) at ten because many people (ourselves included) do not allow their kids to sleep at someone else’s house and our kids tend to turn ten before other people’s kids are ten. At 11 and beyond they can have a sleepover if they want, with a few kids (our house is not huge and there are already five of us in it at all times, so space constraints are an issue) or we can discuss another inexpensive, small outing option if desired.

Now that you have the back story on our birthday party rules, here’s where I was going with all of that.

We have to give Alex all the credit for thinking out of the box for this party.

Our youngest daughter turned seven at the end of the month a couple of months ago. We opted to hold off on the friend party until after the Easter holidays and after school vacation, which led us to the end of April. However, way back in October, she already knew what kind of party she wanted: a cooking party and she wanted it to be at home. She planned the entire thing out herself. It would be a Hello Kitty theme. They would make homemade pizza (we do that a lot here) and decorate cupcakes (which turned into decorating donuts when we got the Babycakes Donut Maker as a Christmas gift) and decorate aprons.

We were thrilled. Birthday parties out of the house tend to be expensive: $10 per kid on the low end and as much as $17 per kid or more on the higher end, with some having a minimum of paying for ten kids whether they are there or not. Some include food, some do not. Some include invitations, some do not. However, “everyone does it” so we have tried to keep up while establishing what we feel are fair rules and reasonable budgets for our parties, and having had to say no to some party options our kids have thrown out at us as suggestions in the past.

But I can’t lie: we were jumping for joy in our heads when she explained what she wanted for her party.

The day of the party came, and she had invited seven kids to come. They all were able to come except one, so there were seven little girls plus my two older daughters who served as the helpers.

First activity: making a variety of homemade pizzas.

We bought enough dough that every pair could make one pizza (and Elizabeth helped out when the seventh friend didn’t arrive). We had two cheese and sauce pizzas, one mushroom, olive and cheese pizza, and one cheese and pepperoni pizza.

That week, I found a “20% off your whole purchase” coupon for Michael’s Crafts, so I went and got 8 aprons. I already had fabric markers here, but I bought a set just in case mine were dried out, but I didn’t need them so I returned them along with an extra apron.

I made the donuts from scratch with Caroline ahead of time, along with the chocolate frosting with Elizabeth while the kids were making their aprons, and each child was able to decorate and eat four donuts. I had purchased one Hello Kitty cake decorating kit which contained sprinkles, cupcake wrappers, candies and tooth pick decorations, and I split it for use between the family party and the friend party. I bought all my paper goods at the dollar store in time for the family party and used what was left for the friend party.

And no, I didn’t care that the paper goods weren’t Hello Kitty. Apparently no one else cared either.

Second activity: decorating aprons.

The kids had a blast.

Alex had a blast.

The moms that stayed, loved it.

We had fun, and it was an easy party. I was relaxed at the end, not exhausted and not broke. It was as much fun (maybe more so) than any party we’ve had out of the house, and best of all, she was happy.

The entire party cost us $32.

We didn’t figure that part out until the end, as we weren’t trying to keep it that low on purpose, but when the party was over and we sat back and realized all we’d been able to do at such a low price, we were amazed.

It just goes to show that even though we sometimes live in a “top this” kind of world and there’s lots of keeping up to be done, that it doesn’t always have to be that way. You can think out of the box, as Alex did back in October, and do something different and still have fun.

It may not always be this way. She may want to have her next party somewhere else, and we’re more than willing to oblige, as long as it stays within the parameters we’ve set, but for now, we’re celebrating the success of this year’s party and remembering more often than not, that it can be done.


The Un-birthday-cake Birthday Cake

2 Apr

Although I'm crafty, I'm not an artist so birthday cake decorating is not really my thing. But, each time, my kids always say they love my cakes and that means so much to me.

Every once in a while I have one of those slap-myself-on-the forehead realizations, the kind where I think to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that,” or even “Why didn’t I think of that sooner?”

Birthday party cakes was one of those moments.

Although I don’t bake them from scratch, I always make our cakes at home and do my best to decorate them despite my lack of artistic ability, but the funny thing is none of us in our immediate family actually really like the traditional birthday cake kind of cake, you know the yellow or chocolate cake with the birthday cake frosting on it. Yet, I just kept making them three times a year, six times if you count friend parties AND family parties. Sometimes I’d do cupcakes instead, but still it’s like cake.

And then last year it happened: my sister in law and her family were here for Elizabeth’s birthday and I made some kind of comment about making the cake even though none of us actually eat it.

Her brilliant answer: “You know, I’ve done brownie cakes and chocolate chip cookie cakes instead, and frost them just the same. It works out great.”

Light bulb.

Slap on forehead.

Why didn’t I think of that????

We love brownies! And, we love cookies!

Elizabeth's "cake" this summer was our first brownie birthday cake.

So last summer I tried out a frosted brownie cake for Liz’s party and it worked out great! I did it two more times over the summer, once for her friend party and once for July 4th, and then again in October for Caroline’s party. Over and over I just kept thinking to myself, “I can’t believe I never thought of this!”

Here it is again, birthday party time and once again, we are doing the un-birthday cake birthday cake. I briefly toyed with the idea of trying out a cookie cake this time and I even grabbed the recipe from my friend Shelley, but I just didn’t have the time to pull it off this weekend. Next time….

In any event, a great time was had by all, and everyone loved the “cake.”

Surprise, it's a brownie! And, this was a budget-friendly brownie cake with the brownie mix from Price Rite and the frosting from Aldi's. My secret ingredient: I throw chocolate chips into the batter.