Friday, February 25, 2011


Happy day! Espen's birthday party was just featured on Sara's Party Perfect, and I can't stop grinning about it. :)

I subscribe to Party Perfect, and always use it as my first resource whenever I'm planning any sort of party or event, including Espen's first birthday. I just marvel at all of the gorgeous, fun and creative things people come up with, and know that Sara gets lots of submissions, so I was very excited that our little shindig was featured.

If you haven't visited her blog yet, definitely head over to Sara's Party Perfect for some fun inspiration!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

First Birthday Party

I just can't believe it: my little boy is one. I've always been one to roll my eyes at parents who say "they grow up so fast", but here I am thinking the same thing myself. Instead of the tiny soft baby that used to sleepily wrap himself around my hand after eating, I now have a chatty, mischievous little boy that zooms around the house at breakneck speeds. It is a complete mystery to me how he has changed so much in just one little year. And let's leave the sentimental musings at that. Instead, would you like to take a look at Espen's first birthday party?

We based the theme for the party on one of Espen's favourite books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I happened to stumble on some Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed invitations and party supplies at Target, and bought invitations, paper napkins and a plastic table cloth. To avoid themed-party-ware-overkill, I paired the napkins with plain cups and plates in red and green similar to the colours in the book.

Because it was a first birthday party for just family and a few friends, we tried to keep things pretty low-key and simple. The tricky part was balancing that, while still making the day special and fun for everyone. We had a lot of fun putting together our own decorations:

This caterpillar is made of balloons and construction paper.
So easy, but the birthday boy loved it!

I made this butterfly by adapting this tutorial for crayon hearts. I just cut out butterfly wings instead of heart shapes and made the head and body with construction paper. His little face and body didn't photograph well with the light behind them, but the wings look pretty when the sunlight catches them. Also a big hit with Espen!

Hopefully this lets you get a good look at our favorite decoration! It's been a good 10 days, and it's STILL up in the kitchen :)
Again, lots of construction paper. We cut out 12 green circles, and attached a photo of Espen for each month of his life. Then we added a head and attached the whole thing to the wall with loops of scotch tape. Of course we love seeing our little boy, but I think it was also fun for the guests to see how much he's grown and changed over the past 12 months.

Next, the food. As mentioned, we wanted to keep things fun and simple. To accommodate the nap schedules of our tiny guests, we had a lunch time party, so we served lunchy food that sat well with the toddler crowd, while still having some interest to their parents. We had juice boxes, animals crackers, fruit and cupcakes.

We wanted to tie the food back in with the book, so we made little holes in the fruit with a plastic straw. If you remember, the very hungry caterpillar eats through all kinds of food, leaving little holes through the pages. Very quick and easy, and something I think the guests liked.

Then there was the cake. We made plain yellow and chocolate cupcakes and frosted them with green (kiwi) frosting for the body. The head was a small circular cake frosted with red (strawberry) frosting. We made the face with kiwi slices. We also made sure to set aside some unfrosted cupcakes for the non-frosting fans.

Here is the birthday boy himself, looking a little skeptical about his first cupcake.
Don't worry, he figured it out eventually. :)

A few thoughts and things we learned about throwing parties for tiny revelers:
  • Keep the guest list small. We only had four little guests, but with all their parents and other guests, there was plenty of party! Little kids get overwhelmed so easily, so for us it worked great to keep the numbers down. Added bonus: we had more time to socialize with each guest.
  • Along the same lines, invite friends that are close to your child in age. That way no one is bored by activities that they're too old or young for, and the kids all have peers to play with.
  • If you are basing your party theme on a book, consider reading it. We started out the party by seating the kids on a blanket and reading the book together, which I think made the food and the decorations more relevant to kids and parents alike. Plus it was nice to just start out the party with a little gathering activity.
  • Speaking of activities, keep things short and simple for toddlers. There were so many great craft options that we could have gone with but, but we would honestly have ended up with the parents crafting while the kids squirmed. Besides reading the book, our only other scheduled activity was blowing bubbles. Big hit with the under-two crowd!
  • We had wanted to come up with a party favor, but had a hard time thinking of anything that little kids could safely play with or eat, so we kind of wimped out on that one. Then my in-laws showed up with helium balloons for all the children to take home, and that worked out great. I had several moms tell me days later that their kids were still playing with the balloons from the party. If you're throwing a party for toddlers, I'd definitely recommend them as a fun favor to take home.
And that's it for Espen's first birthday party! It was a really fun, special and memorable day, and one that I know Espen enjoyed too. Maybe almost as much as his mama enjoyed putting it together :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What a difference a year makes.

February 16, 2010:

February 16, 2011:

Happy birthday, little boy!
Thank you for making me your mama.
Thank you for making our home such a happy one.
We love you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cabin Fever Week: Friday and done!

I'm not much of a crafter, but I've had this idea in mind for a project that I could do with Espen. I had this grand vision that we could basically do the whole thing in about two hours (ha!), but quickly realized that instead we were going to have to split the project up into short bursts over the course of several days.

Because Espen likes ripping paper, I thought it might be fun to try our hands at making some collages. We got out the paper recycling box, and Espen had a really great time pulling out all the paper, shredding it and generally making a big mess. While he was doing that, I worked on editing down the paper that we would use for the project. I tried to find colors, textures and patterns that complemented each other, mostly from the Boden and Anthropologie catalogs, but if you think you can see some Netflix red in there, you are not wrong.

If you're going to be doing this with an 11 month-old, be warned that it takes a lot of patience. Espen wanted to sort too, so he kept taking things out of the discard pile and putting them in with the ones we were going to use ("you have no artistic vision, mama!"), and he just loved emptying the box of paper again and again. And then eventually, he lost interest and went to do something else. In terms of getting the project "done", that wasn't so bad, but in terms of doing something together it wasn't so great either.

But, it did keep us busy for an hour, and it will give us something to do together later in week when we give stage two of the project a try.

I'd say that all in all, Cabin Fever week was pretty successful. Most importantly, it gave me and Espen a chance to spend time together in ways that broke a bit with our routine and gave us both a chance to do something a bit different without having to leave the house. The other big benefit that I see is that it forces me to look at our surroundings a bit differently and creatively in order to come up with new ways for my son and I to experience them together. It really doesn't take a lot at all to invent a bit of fun with the things around you.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cabin Fever Week: Wednesday and Thursday

The last couple of days have been busy ones around here. I usually spend Espen's naps as "me-time" where I read and write blogs, read a book, or spend copious amounts of time on Facebook, but I've been a whirlwind of activity and productivity lately, and have spent my time trying to get the house cleaned and in order.

The occasion? A visit from Espen's grandma and grandpa (Nick's parents). I love my mother-in-law to bits and pieces, and absolutely know that she wouldn't think less of my for having Cheerios all over my kitchen floor (after all, she did take care of me after Espen was born and knows full well how messy things can get around here), but I still can't help but want everything to look effortlessly spotless and shiny for her. "Oh no, we can always see our reflection in the kitchen sink. That's just how we like it!" Maybe it's some subconscious desire to show her that her son really is in good hands? Please tell me I'm not the only one?!?

Anyway, it takes two days to clean our little house when I have my little sidekick with me, so that is mostly what we've been doing. However, we did squeeze in some fun things to do together:

On Wednesday we were in the guest room taking the sheets off the bed, when Espen decided to pull a photo album (remember those, oldies?) off the shelf. "That looks fun" I thought, "I haven't looked at those in ages." So I dropped what I was doing and sat down on the floor with him to look at the photos. I enjoyed looking at the old photos and getting my reminisce on, and Espen enjoyed looking at the photos and seeing the faces of people he recognized, like Mama, Daddy and all his grandparents. I'm sure some of it was bit confusing, like Daddy wearing glasses, or Mama being 20 lbs. lighter (that one confuses me too. Why? Why?), but he was happy to look and chat and turn the pages. And I was happy to have a captive audience who was actually interested in photos from almost a decade ago.

If you have some photo albums lying around, I'd definitely recommend spending some time with them to fend off the cabin fever.

Thursday was mostly spent being a grown-up, productive and useful member of society, but the fun part of the day definitely came about when Grandma and Grandpa showed up. It took a few minutes for Espen to warm up to them again, but pretty soon he was playing and giggling. Then Grandma got a few belly-laughs out of him too. Of course I forgot to get the camera out, so you're just going to have to take my word for it. But, oh, it was cute. I'm so glad that we have one set of grandparents that live close enough to visit every once in a while.

Well, I should really take advantage of the rest of this nap and do something fun. I have something a little ambitious planned for today's Cabin Fever-busting activity. so wish us luck! I'll be back sometime this weekend to tell you all about it.

The moment we've all been waiting for...

Today's the day for drawing the winner of the latest CSN giveaway, so without further ado, and with the help of and the number 10, I give to you:

Congratulations, TopHat (the toppest of hats)! May you use your $40 with great frivolity.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cabin Fever Week: Tuesday

On Tuesday my good friend Caren took pity on us in our carless, housebound state and came over to take us out to lunch. Oh, it was good to get out of the house and eat food that I didn't make myself! But it was also absolutely freezing cold and windy, so by the time we had eaten lunch and made a quick trip to Target, we were completely ready to get back inside and stay here again.

Between getting ready to go and recovering after we got back, this two-hour expedition seemed to fill most of our day. We didn't really have too much time to entertain ourselves before dinner, but we did have long enough to get some good play time in.

Espen loves it when we play with him, and he loves chasing. Usually one of us will hold him and chase the other one around the house (yes, we're all quiet dignity here) while Espen growls and squeals. Well, with only me and Espen at home, we needed a quick variant. So I got down on my hands and knees and chased him around while we both crawled. Pretty soon he got the idea and started chasing me!

It was maybe not the most innovative of undertakings, but we had fun. Sure, I had other things to do, and my knees objected, but goodness, nothing clears the cobwebs like ten minutes of chasing and squealing with my little boy.