Posts Tagged ‘Entertainment’

Chari-Tea Bunco Cause Party

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Recently multi-platinum, Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter, Ashanti teamed up with Johnson’s Body Care to launch a new charitable program that enables real women across the country to support local charities through simply hosting get-togethers with friends.

I was given the opportunity to host one of these “cause parties” where I could kick back with my girlfriends, pamper ourselves with Johnson’s new line of lotions and body washes and help raise money for a local charity.

Lucky for me, it happened to be my turn to host our monthly Bunco so I decided to partner these opportunities together and host a Chari-Tea Bunco night at my house.

My guests were asked to bring monetary and/or food donations to support the St Joseph County Food Bank. Everyone also agreed that the winnings would be given to the food bank instead of divided among ourselves for the event and Johnson’s gave us $100 to start the charitable pot for our charity.

By hosting this event with Johnson’s they gave us the money to put towards the food and drinks for our event so I truly got to pamper my girlfriends in style because no one had to bring a single dish to share.
I still kept to a thrifty budget, but tried to add some special touches for our group. Our centerpiece was a bouquet of flowers displayed in a teapot with a variety of special teas in my china teacups for our table. These beautiful bouquets of flowers were purchased at Sam’s Club for less than $5.

Here are some pictures of the great food that we got to eat. I wanted to stick with the tea party food and dishes that would be easy to handle while playing our game.

I got a huge croissant sandwich tray that served 18 for $32 at Sam’s Club. I cut these sandwiches in half and then added colored toothpicks to hold them together so people could sample different varieties of sandwiches and to make them a little more bite-sized.

For side dishes, I purchased two huge vegetable trays for $9.87 each that were prepared by Sam’s Club. I made a delicous pesto pasta salad from my new favorite cookbook, “The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen,” which you must check out! I then bought a variety of fruit and made fruit kabobs by skewering them for our guests out of pineapple, grapes, and strawberries. These fruit kabobs were thrown into a pretty wine bucket for everyone to grab.

For dessert, I purchased two boxes of mini creme puffs that I served on cake platters with a decaf coffee to finish out the meal.

The star of the party though was the Bunco punch that I made that was a delicious summery drink to go with our food. We also had a box of the Black Box Cabernet which was another surprising hit with many of my friends who had not had the pleasure of trying boxed wines before. Sam’s Club had the best price on this with a box that was equivalent to four bottles for only $18.32. I have to say, these boxed wines are an affordable way to entertain on a budget.

On my lower level, we had a little welcome desk where my guests could sign in and my coffee table got taken over by all of the great food donations.

Each guest got to take home a really cute reusable bag filled with Johnson’s products to sample and share with their friends as a thank you for their charitable efforts. Each bag contained their 24 Hour Moisturizer, 24 Hour Moisturizing Body Wash, & their Be Radiant Cocoa & Shea Butter Lotions. These products were just for us, not for our kiddos, and they smell and feel great. My favorite is definitely the Be Radiant Cocoa & Shea Butter Lotion- it smells divine!

We had the biggest turn out for Bunco ever with seventeen great women in attendance and we were so excited about all we could do for our community. With the donation made by Johnson’s plus our own donations, we were able to donate $205 to the St Joseph County Food Bank and an entire car full of food donations for the cause.

With the job loss in our area, our food banks and shelters are in critical need right now and if you are able to give anything at all, I encourage you to take the time to do it.

Here are some of the items the Food Bank of Northern Indiana critically needs:

Cereal — hot and cold
Meat, chicken or tuna
Mac/cheese, dry pasta
Potato flakes
Spaghetti O’s, stews
Pork & Beans
Chicken Helper
Family-sized soups
Dry soup mixes
Juice boxes
Beans — baked, refried
Pancake, waffle mix
Plastic containers

Individuals, clubs, churches, civic groups and local businesses can all conduct food drives. Donated food is a much needed commodity in their fight against hunger. They accept donated food between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday, at their location on 702 S. Chapin Street, South Bend, IN. If this location is not convenient to you, there are many other drop off points including all of the Martin’s Supermarket grocery stores. For more information please visit The Food Bank of Northern Indiana to find out how you can help.

Throwing a cause party was such a fun girl’s night out and I encourage you to do the same with your girlfriends! It is a fun and easy way to give back to charities in your community and I am so thankful that Johnson’s helped us support such a great cause in our own community!

Here are the star recipes from our fabulous Chari-Tea Bunco night that you could replicate for a charity night at your house!

Pesto Pasta Salad (courtesy of “The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen“) and you can visit The Farm Chicks Blog too!

3 cups bowtie pasta (about 8 oz)
1/4 cup pesto (Sam’s Club has pesto for really cheap, if your garden isn’t ready for pesto-making yet)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (about two medium)
1/2 cup halved pitted black olives
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)

Cook pasta as directed. Drain and rinse under cold running water and let cool. Place in a salad bowl. In another bowl, mix the pesto and sour cream together and add to the pasta, tossing to coat. Add the tomatoes, olives, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts and toss to mix. Serve.

Bunco Punch

Orange slices
Lemon slices
Lime slices
Maraschino cherries
Cherry juice or red food coloring
Metal ring mold

SIMPLE SYRUP (Prepare ahead) :
3 c. water
3 c. sugar
Combine, boil and cool.

Simple syrup, chilled
4 c. chilled cranberry juice
3 c. chilled bottled lemon juice
2 c. chilled orange juice
2 c. chilled unsweetened pineapple juice
2 qt. chilled ginger ale
16 oz. rum or vodka or wine or champagne

Create your ice ring by throwing in the citrus fruit slices and then pouring in the jar of cherries (juice and all) Top the bundt pan off with water and then freeze overnight.

To serve: Unmold ice ring into punch bowl; add juices and liquor; add ginger ale.

This makes approximately 30 (6 ounce) servings.

What are some fun charitable activities you do with your friends and/or family? I would love for you to share how you make charity a priority in your house?

Related Links:

Good Cheap Fun: Bunco

Retro Housewife Bunco

Kentucky Derby Bunco

’70’s Bunco Style

Ask the Frugal Momma: Throwing a Baby Shower on a Budget?

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009


I am turning to you for some advice about an upcoming baby shower that my husband & I are co-hosting because I know what a budget savvy and creative person you are!

A roommate of mine from college is expecting her first child in May. After asking her several times if anyone was throwing her a shower and her saying no, we offered to co-host a couple’s shower with a guy that works with her husband and his wife.

So here’s where I get to the dilemma…she e-mailed me the guest list this week and there are 30 couples on it…that’s 60 people!

I need some advice for how to pull of the kind of shower that they deserve, but on my budget!! I feel like we have to feed all of these people and provide adult beverages, but I don’t know how we could do that for less than a small fortune!!



Thank you so much for your question and I am so happy to offer a little advice on your baby shower! As always, if you have any questions that you would like to send me, you can email them to me at amy(at)momadvice(dot)com and I would love to share any expertise that I can offer.

Here are a few tips and tricks for throwing a fun baby shower on a budget:

Keep The Decorations Simple

You can burn through a lot of money quickly just on the decorations so one cost effective way to decorate is to decorate with item’s that the mother can use or by making a few sweet handmade items.

One of my favorite decorations for a table centerpiece are diaper cakes because it is a special gift for the new mommy and it can double as an attractive centerpiece for the occasion. You can visit my easy instructions and a little cost-breakdown and my tips for how to make these inexpensively.

(photo credit: Wendy Copley)

(photo credit: Janice)

Make a baby clothesline to hang near the food table or behind where the mother will be opening her gifts. Pick cute coordinating items and then give them as a gift to the mother at the end of the shower.

(photo credit: Jaime Compton)

A simple, sweet banner can double as a decoration later for the child’s nursery. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate at all, in fact, the simpler the better. If you know the mother’s nursery colors, try and coordinate the banner to the baby’s future room. For a simple banner tutorial, I love this cute square banner, a bunting made from newspaper, and for the ambitious a knitted bunting. The possibilities are endless and could be made from supplies that you already have on hand in your crafting supplies.

Inexpensive Food to Feed the Masses

If you have a large group to feed, you could stick to between meal times and just provide fun snacks or a fun dessert table. Appetizers will go a lot further than a meal will. If you would like to do a meal, a brunch can be a really cost effective way to entertain and is a classy way to throw a fabulous spread.

Spinach Balls

Bite Sized Sandwiches with vegetable & fruit trays

Mini Quiches with an elegant salad (photo credit: chanmelmel)

Breakfast Casseroles & a Festive Punch

Mimosas (photo credit: K Santos)
A Creative Cake

Instead of doing an elaborate cake, offer guests mini-cupcakes in sweet pastel colors with a creative cupcake topper. These cupcake toppers from papertreats are just one example of cute homemade toppers that can decorate your cupcakes very creatively and that will make them sparkle when your cake decorating skills are lacking. If you are really ambitious, you could make your own cupcake picks with the baby’s initial stamped on them or even something more elaborate like this. Check a scrapbooking supplies store or a craft store to find cute paper and embellishments for your project.

Remember that you can freeze cake ahead of time, so you can crank out those cupcakes even the week before and keep them in the freezer. I like to decorate the cake while it is still frozen because it helps reduce the amount of crumbs that can collect in your icing. Ice them the day before and assemble them on pretty cake stand or make your own cake stands for a thrifty and creative alternative.

You will need to modify the length of time you cook your cupcakes for cooking mini-cupcakes. Follow the instructions exactly, but just cook your cupcakes for half the time. Keep an eye on them just because they will cook quickly!

Here are some of my favorite cupcake recipes:

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes With Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Frosting

The Best Birthday Cupcakes in the World

Fun & Games

I may be the minority, but I am not a fan of baby shower games. With sixty people in attendance, you are going to have a hard time pulling off an organized activity. Spend that time socializing or do a game like these that will not require everyone being quiet and sitting in a circle.

(photo credit: Emma Black)

Have your guests email you a picture of them from when they were a child. Print out copies of the pictures and make it a party game to Guess Who? is in the pictures.

(photo credit: the higher nest)

How about a Baby Shower Price is Right card and choose the closest winner on how much common baby items would cost?

(photo credit: nhearon2003)

Of course the simpler the game, the easier! Why not throw candy in a clear jar and have your guests guess the total amount? With large group activities, the simpler the better! The bonus with this game is that this game can double as a centerpiece!

Parting Gifts

In a party of this size, I do not think people will be expecting to take home a party favor. Everyone is going to be happy to be included and will just be enjoying the celebrating. Concentrate your efforts on the food, cake, and entertainment and your guest will leave with the wonderful memory of the occasion rather than a gift that they probably will not use.

Consider your shower and any of the centerpieces and decorations your gift to your friend. If you want to add a special gift that she can use, give her a basket of thank you cards and stamps which she can use to thank all of her guests for their thoughtful gifts!

Good luck with your shower and I hope these ideas will give you a good starting point for a festive and frugal celebration!

(Photo Credit: Picture 1- Jerusalem)

Do you have any tips or advice for the hostess for throwing a great budget-friendly shower? I know she will really appreciate it!

Free & Fun Resources for Book Lovers

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

The coffee tray was assembled with all the necessary items for a good cup of coffee.

I gathered a stack of books from my bookshelves that I was not planning to read right now and books that I had read and truly loved.

Our fearless book club leader, Jessica, suggested a book swap for the month. I offered to host our book gathering and couldn’t wait to see what everyone brought. We piled the books on the table, we shared what we thought about our respective stacks, and we sipped some coffee. Everyone left with a bag full of new books and not a dime was spent. It was like going to the library, but no one will fine me if I don’t get it read in three weeks time. As a busy mom, this is exactly the type of book activity that I was game for.

If you don’t have some friends to swap books with, here are a few book resources that I have gathered for the book lovers of the world:

GoodReads or Shelfari- I use GoodReads to keep track of all of the things that I am reading or plan to read. I am not good about remembering the books I have read or that I would like to read in the future. This site helps me keep track of my impressions of books and keep my bookshelves fully stocked with the books I am really interested in reading. I love to keep a pad of paper with me in my purse or make notes into my cell phone when I am at the bookstore so if I happen upon a book I am interested in, I can jot down a note so I can pick it up at my local library.

BookCrossing- This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf- This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

Frugal Reader, Paperback Swap, & Bookmooch- Just three of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you recive to get more books.

Bookins- This is another great site where you can not only swap books, but also movies. Their system will automatically arrange for shipments from you to one member and from a third member back to you, and so on. You never have to contact anyone, there is no bidding, and there are no hassles of dealing with different traders and personalities for each exchange. The shipping charges are always a flat $4.49 for the service. You can keep what you get or exchange it again when you are done.

SwapSimple- This is a site where you can list textbooks, books, games or DVDs. Begin by listing what you have to be available to others. Right when you list an item, they will figure out what it’s current market value is, and award you 20% of it’s value up front for your use. You get the remaining 80% when you send your item to another swapper. This means you can list items, and get items immediately!

Amazon’s Free Kindle Downloads- For those that have moved towards the electronic books, Amazon has books available to download for free through February 28th. Be sure to snag these books and save!

Of course, the ultimate in free resources for book lovers is your local library. Be sure to check the Resources page on your library’s website and see what tools you might be overlooking. My library card comes with free passes to local museums, online memberships to many research tools, even iPods and audio book downloads right to my iPod!

Do you use any of these resources for your reading? Feel free to share your own resources that you have discovered that could help your fellow book lover out!

Our Birthday Brunch Bash (With Recipes)

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Our famous birthday banner was hung high this weekend for Emily’s 3rd birthday. Sprinkled all over the house were purple birthday balloons and pretty purple ribbons tied on anything and everything that I could tie to. In the background was playing a slide show of our sweet Emily (thanks to my friend Rachel for that great idea!) with a collection of photos of our sweet girl growing up.

Just before her party, Emily and Ethan bonked heads so hard that they both were crying uncontrollably leaving Ethan with a goose egg on his forehead and Emily with what appears will soon be a black eye. That is always good for those birthday photos!

The anticipation of waiting for our guests was almost too much to bear. The roads were sheets of ice and accidents were witnessed by many of our party guests on their way to Emily’s party. We were so thankful to everyone that came and drove on the treacherous roads for our celebration.

I decided to do a brunch this year because I could prepare all of the food the day before and brunch is an economical dish to serve for a crowd. I made an Overnight Breakfast Casserole, a French Toast Souffle, Holiday Punch, and purchased (at a 40% discount on the marked down items in the bakery) croissant pinwheels, coffee with flavored creamers/syrups, and our birthday cake. All in all, I spent about $30 on all the food & decorating supplies to serve sixteen people. We kept it simple by just inviting family this year and opting for some playgroup fun around the holidays instead of a friend party.

Emily opened her presents which were filled with more princess stuff than you could shake a wand at. The hit of the party, a very special pair of princess shoes of which I am quite sure she will be toppling over and getting a matching black eye as she traipses along her imaginary runway.

Happy 3rd birthday, Miss Emily! You are loved and adored by all who have the pleasure of knowing you!

French Toast Souffle

10 cups white bread cubes (I used a loaf of French Bread)
2 Tablespoons each of sugar and cinnamon
1 (8 ounce) package low fat cream cheese, softened
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup half-and-half cream
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Maple Syrup for topping

Place bread cubes in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Pour sugar and cinnamon on the bread and lightly toss with your hands. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in milk, half and half, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and vanilla until mixture is smooth. Pour cream cheese mixture over the bread; cover, and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, remove souffle from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Immediately after removing from the oven, drizzle maple syrup over the top (it will melt into the souffle). Using a sifter, shake the powdered sugar all over the top.

Side Note: I had some trouble with the cream cheese mixing in & not making it look curdled so I followed another recipe that suggested leaving the cream cheese as a block and cutting small cubes of cream cheese to dollop between the layers of bread. You can do whichever you prefer!

Overnight Breakfast Casserole

1 pound sliced ham (lunch meat)
2 teaspoons mustard
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
6 slices white bread, toasted & cut into cubes
8 ounces mild cheddar cheese

In a medium bowl, mix together mustard, salt, eggs, and milk. Add the ham (cut into cubes), bread cubes, and cheese, and stir to cat evenly. Pour into a greased 9×13″ baking dish. Cover & chill in the refrigerator for eight hours, or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover and bake 45-60 minutes. Uncover and reduce temperature to 325 and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until set.

Amy’s Holiday Punch

1 (2 liter) bottle cherry 7-Up soda
1 liter (half a bottle) raspberry flavored soda (I found this at Walmart)
1 (12 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 (12 ounce) can frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1 (1 liter) can pineapple juice

Mix all the ingredients together for the punch. This will fill one large punch bowl or two smaller ones. Rum can be added
for a spiked punch, but that would be super inappropriate for a princess party! This will convert the non-punch lovers in the group, I promise!

A Family Day at the Pumpkin Patch

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Our family decided to take a trip over to the pumpkin patch this weekend together. We decided to visit Amazing Acres in Edwardsburg, Michigan because we had heard so many great things about it. As soon as we pulled up and I saw the truly amazing varieties of pumpkins and gourds they had to offer, I just knew we made the right choice.

I loved that they had tons of wagons available so you could load your purchases right up into your car. The cobwebs gathering on a few of them just spoke of Halloween to me!

Can you see my favorite pumpkins peeking their heads out at me? I just loved all of these little pumpkins sitting in rows. I couldn’t resist getting inside to takes some shots of them sitting in on the ledge. Pumpkins have to be one of the greatest subjects for photography, don’t you think?

The first thing we had to do was take a hayride with the kids. For our family of four, the cost was $16 for a hayride and to visit the petting zoo.

They clang this old bell each hour to let you know that the ride is getting ready to start. We hurried over to make it for the very first ride of the day!

We were excited because our ride was the first one leaving so we got to stop and give the horses breakfast. The gentleman who gave us the ride turned and told us a little bit about each horse. “This horse is two years old and she likes to bite.” To which Ethan loudly replied, “Just like our Emily.” Everyone turned to our family and the guy asked who Emily was. “My sister,” he said with a little grin. I guess we have a little pony in our family.

The hayride pulled right up to the pumpkin patch where the kids could choose a pumpkin for one dollar. We were told if anyone picked a cell phone out of the patch, they would receive the biggest pumpkin in the whole place. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find the poor guy’s phone, but as frugal as I am, you can bet that I sure tried!

Some had an easier time finding their perfect pumpkin.

Others had to think and contemplate much longer before settling on the pumpkin of their dreams.

After our hayride, the kids loved spending time in the troughs filled with corn. Emily left with about four corn cobs in her diaper after they practiced making snow angels and jumping and swimming in the kernels.

We also couldn’t resist seeing all the beautiful animals and the creative places they lived.

This little storefront was just for the bunnies!

All in all, we had an amazing day at the pumpkin patch, that I don’t think our family will soon forget!

** If you want to see the whole set of pictures, you can see our Pumpkin Patch photos over at Flickr! Enjoy! **

Do you do have any special Fall family traditions? What is your favorite thing to do in the Fall as a family?

An Olympics Family Night

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

We could not let the Olympics pass by without a fun family night surrounding it! Ethan is really into the Olympics this year (thanks to our Wii & the Mario Olympic Games) so I really wanted to do something fun & memorable for the kids.

For our dinner we made the infamous Chicken Lo Mein. We eat this about every other week, but it is a huge hit with the kids every single time and makes fabulous leftovers for lunch. I made a big batch of white rice (cooked as directed but I subbed the water with chicken broth) and bought a package of egg rolls (on special at Aldi for $1.99). I also asked the kids if they would like to try some tea and they both were excited about that so I made some of that too. It was a great excuse to use my little teapot that my grandfather bought for me and these Asian-inspired tea cups that I found at Goodwill.

The kids thought that these cups were really cool because they didn’t have any handles on them. They had never tried egg rolls or tea before and I am happy to report that they both loved them. Emily called it chocolate and had the best time stirring it with her little spoon. My husband also had never tried egg rolls and loved them too! The dinner was a real hit!

Dad was in charge of the remote and we watched the Olympic games while we ate our dinner. There are times when having a television in the kitchen really pays off. Ethan kept saying, “Go, America! Go, America!” He also made predictions on how Michael Phelps was going to do (“Michael Phelps won’t win because China is going to win, mom!”)
While we cleaned up from dinner, Ethan worked on a picture of what the Olympics looked like to him. This is the 100 meter race. I love his fans cheering in the top corner of this page. We made this into a card for our new teacher.

After our fancy dinner and coloring, we worked on learning about origami. I found this cool origami website and we printed out several easy origami activities to do. Ethan colored them and then Dad showed him how to fold them into interesting things.

Ethan was so excited about learning origami that he wanted to know what else he could learn about from China. “I want to do something else from China,” he said. My husband had him doing all sorts of Asian things- drinking water, taking a bath, putting on pajamas. You can’t say we don’t have a sense of humor in this house!

Do your children enjoy the Olympics? Do you have a fun way that you are teaching your children about the culture or a cool way of celebrating this event in your family?

At the Car Wash: Part II

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

This summer, the kids really loved getting to wash their own cars, but my neglected car was in need of a car wash too. Isn’t that why we have kids though? Might as well put these able-bodied children to work, that’s what I say!

Emily worked on the car with an old baby washcloth and Ethan used daddy’s official car scrubber.

I loved their looks of total concentration. They took their task very seriously and Emily kept wanting to show us how yucky the water was. I am the same way though when I scrub our floors. I just have to have other people witness the gross factor- you just can’t experience that alone.

I don’t know if I should mention this every single time, but I do feed this kid. These shorts are 3T and falling off of him still. I see pictures like these and feel like I should make a disclaimer- this kid eats me under the table. Oh, to have that metabolism!

Where in the world is their supervisor though? Oh, I think I found him sitting on the step watching the kids work. I don’t think we should ever claim to be parenting experts!

He had to break out the big guns though and show the kids how to clean the roof of the car. They thought this part was hilarious.

What’s a car wash though without a little water play afterwards? Ethan thought this part was definitely the best. Best of all, I have a clean car AND two exhausted workers to prove that this was a family event worth repeating!

Sponge Ball Bullseye

Monday, July 14th, 2008

My once-a-year Martha Moment is here! These sponge balls are courtesy of Martha Stewart Kids Magazine (and a double inspiration from Betz White who was featured in one of my notebook entries).

I hit the Dollar Tree and got two packages of sponges to make our creations. I followed the instructions and cut two sponges into fours and then stacked the two sponges on top of one another with alternating colors. If you buy two packages, you will have enough alternating colors to make six sponges with different colors in each. Then, simply tie the sponges off with a long piece of floss and knot it a few times to keep it in place.

Here is my plastic ice bucket filled with these sponges. The colors are so beautiful that I wanted to spend an afternoon photographing this pail of sponges. Do we stop there and let the kids play with them like this though? NO!

You could say that I am even more inventive than Martha this time! Now take an old drop cloth or sheet and use painter’s tape, a permanent marker, or paint to make your bullseye. Squares are much easier with the painter’s tape so we have a nice square bullseye for the kids.

Now hang your game up on the clothesline (or wherever else you can find). We weighed the bottom of the sheet down with clothespins. This sheet is also folded in half to give it a little more weight. Of course, when the wind starts blowing, give the kids extra points if they can still hit it.

Not challenging enough? Have one of your kids stand in front and block it.

For some reason, that was one roadblock too many for this toddler.

You can also grab two at a time or a whole handful of them. Make it more challenging by backing the kids up further from the mark. Our point system was 10, 20, and 30 points depending on the size of the square they hit. (PS- I promise I feed my children, they just have extremely high metabolism)

An afternoon of water fun cost us $2 in sponges, but this is a game that I hope we can play many more times together.

Ain’t No Party Like a LEGO Party

Monday, July 7th, 2008

What a busy holiday weekend this was for us! We celebrated Ethan’s sixth birthday with his dream party- a LEGO birthday party. I must say that I tried to put a lot of effort into this one and he was the happiest little boy I had ever seen!

What’s a LEGO party without a LEGO cake though? I had bookmarked a recipe in my notebook entry for a LEGO cake, but we were entertaining a lot of people and the cake would not cover the amount of people that I needed it to. I also did not want to try and cut and make shapes out of a sheet cake. I opted to prepare two cake mixes in loaf pans to create this cake. One cake mix per loaf pan, cooked as directed, but cooked for at least an hour (mine took approximately one hour and ten minutes to cook these cakes at the same time). I then froze the cake overnight which helped keep the crumbs at bay and made it easier to decorate. I did use the marshmallows, but opted for blue and yellow for colors. This cake was extremely difficult to frost around and on top of the marshmallows, but I think the results turned out great, even though it was not as smooth as I had aimed for. The cost to make these two cakes was $5.50.

We had the party outside so I kept the decorating simple. I made pinwheels out of my scrapbook paper. To make these, just fold your paper accordion-style. Then fold your accordion in half and fan these out. You can then staple these to one another (along the back side) to make your pinwheel. Each of these pinwheels had three pieces of paper on them each. You just want to make sure that the paper is very sturdy so it will hold the shape. I gave them a hole with a hole punch and then tied them on the underside of the umbrella with green raffia. They looked really lovely under the patio umbrella.

For the indoor food table, I did a big basket of LEGOS and I framed a letter that I wrote to Ethan about how special he was to us. This is the first year I have done this, and we read this to him as a bedtime story before bed the night before. He loved hearing about how much we loved him and how proud we were of him. The grandparents loved reading it too and seeing what cool things happened this year. Total spent on decorations and party supplies- $0

I did serve food at the party and opted for some take-and-bake pizzas to help save me some time. Our Papa Murphy’s is just down the road and I signed up for their e-club so that I could get a new batch of coupons. We printed these out and used these on four family size pizzas. Total cost for pizza for twenty $34 (with plenty of leftovers). We also served some fresh melon, spinach dip with carrot sticks, & tortilla chips with salsa, and soda. Overall, I spent about $50 on food (which includes the cost of the cake), but we also have a couple of dinners and plenty of snacks leftover to eat!

Entertainment consisted of dragging out every outdoor game and toy we could imagine to keep the kiddos busy. The kids also spent lots of time coloring on free LEGO coloring pages that I printed up from the LEGO website. They could take these pages home with them to color too so that filled in for those goody bags. Total cost spent on entertainment and goody bags- $0

All of that effort for this perfect moment right here. Ethan wished for a hundred kisses from his mom & dad. I think we can do that! How I wish he was always this innocent and that I could freeze this perfect moment forever. Perfect moment…oh, you know it… PRICELESS!

Total Amount Spent on LEGO Party for Twenty: $50

Retro Housewife Bunco

Monday, April 28th, 2008

This month, I got to host our Bunco group, and I was so excited about my retro housewife theme. The best part about this theme was that I could display my apron collection and I could make all my friends wear aprons too.

The downfall with entertaining is that my home is a smaller space. It just means that I have to be a little more purposeful with clearing the home of clutter and finding more inventive ways to display and share all of our good food, but I did my best.

I cleared all of the shoes and coats from our entryway and replaced them with a handful of my favorite aprons from my collection. A couple of the girls said that they didn’t have an apron (I know, *gasp*) so I thought they could borrow one of mine from one of our hooks when they walked in. It also helped to tie in the theme!
I love to look for benches for my house because it makes great instant seating in any room. Even an old and ugly bench can be recovered and made to look more modern with a new fabric or coat of paint. I pulled my benches into a seating arrangement that I thought would make it easy for groups to sit together and would make it easier for people to chat. These are also narrow enough that they make good seating for homes with smaller spaces.

We had a delicious retro supper prepared. I made my favorite Sloppy Joe recipe and I got mini-kaiser rolls to make it easier to eat while we played. These were served with tater tots and Rice Krispie treats for dessert. I could prepare everything ahead of time and just had to throw the tater tots in the oven before everyone arrived. I planned to serve slushies, but everyone brought a beverage to share instead so this made it easier for me.

I love to serve our food on cake stands and the covered ones are great for keeping bread from drying out and they help to create a display. If you are short on space, elevating the food can make more room for lower dishes to rest. If you don’t have cake stands, you can use an inverted bowl and rest a plate on top to create a cute cake stand. Hunt at the thrift stores and you can find elegant china plates and cups or bowls to create cute little cake stands.

Coolers can get in the way when you are trying to entertain and can be difficult to hunt for just the right drink. I plugged one side of our double sink and filled it with ice. I tucked the drinks inside of there and then took a ribbon and looped a bottle opener through the ribbon and around the spout. It made it much easier to drain (just have to unplug the sink) and it also saved on space in my fridge and freezer.

What retro housewife would ever serve her guests dinner on paper plates? We kept our party green and wallet-friendly by using cloth napkins and my favorite white dishes to serve on. I had seven guests so it only equaled one fast load of dishes and everything was cleaned.

Isn’t this scorekeeper so handsome? Ethan got home from grandma and grandpa’s and was immediately intrigued by what all these crazy women were doing. He was so good to help keep score and even got to throw dice a few times with us.

Thank you to all my Bunco Babes who allowed me to live out one of my little fantasies. It was so fun to have a retro night with all of you!