Category: Decorating

Hearts on the Horizon

I know we just came through the holiday season, but there’s always another one just around the corner. You can’t escape it at the stores and for someone who likes to plan ahead, I might as well start thinking about it.  Especially since baby girl is due in February and I want to make sure I’ve got all my ducks in a row.

I used to hate Valentine’s Day.  In fact, I used to wear black in protest.  Now that I have a husband and children, occasions like these are just another excuse to show them how special they are to me.  Okay… and eat [dark] chocolate.

Last year I started the heart paper trail tradition and will be doing it again this year.  I saved all the paper hearts I cut out and will scatter them across the floor from the kiddos’ bedroom doors to the kitchen table, where I’ll have some sort of treats laid out.


This year I stumbled upon make and take’s Counting Down to Valentine’s with 14 Acts of Love.  Not only is it simple, pretty and something fun to involve the kiddos, I love that it capitalizes on doing nice things for others.


Since I’m always looking for non-candy treat alternatives, I’ll most likely make heart-shaped fruit “lollipops” or kabobs to go along with breakfast again; those were a big hit last year.  Sometimes the healthiest foods are treat enough for the kiddos.


If I do break down and make treats, I’ve got a few things in mind…

Strawberry Mousse


Valentine Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites


Chocolate Cherry Bark


Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper Cupcakes


There’s an endless array of ideas for crafts and gifts the kiddos can make.  I’m trying to narrow down the options!  Last year we did handprint hearts, which came out really well, and this year I’m thinking something with fingerprints?

Thumbprint Valentines

credit: brownpaper–

Thumbprint Valentine Day Bookmarks


Although there is this lovely handprint heart


For crafts with the kiddos…

Gwen would love these tiny matchbox heart babies.


Tissue Paper Hearts, almost like stained glass!


And since I’m half Danish, I would love to teach the kids how to make Danish hearts (apparently, you can make baskets out of ’em too – great idea for Easter!).


I have mini mailboxes that I decorated for Phil and the kiddos and I’m always trying to figure out what to put inside other than conversation hearts (which I never really liked, truth be told).

DIY Valentine Surprise Balls


Felt Valentines


Matchbook Photo Valentine


Although it’s nice to think of heart-related items to make and give for Valentine’s, I may just stick with sibling gifts that I’m contemplating for the kiddos when the new baby arrives.  I got Little Things to Sew from the library and plan on making doll carriers for each of them; how precious would that be?

credit: Ressica Jachel on

*See my Valentine’s Day Pinterest board for more ideas & inspiration.

The Kiddos’ Birthday Bash

Both of my children were born the week of Thanksgiving, their birthdays two days apart.  And every year around Thanksgiving I ponder the question of whether or not to combine their birthdays with the holiday to simplify.  But something always holds me back because I feel like they’ll miss out or get lost in the shuffle.  Aside from that, I run the risk of not being able to invite friends and family who are with their own relatives.

So once again, after doing our own thing for each of the kids on their respective birthdays, we had a family party the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  It worked out nicely because it was earlier in the afternoon, which gave us more daylight during which the kids could play outside and more time before telling them they had to stop playing with their new toys and go to bed.

I was thrilled that Gwen loved her Princess and the Pea set.  She was very quiet about the whole thing, which is typical for her, but she thanked me more than once for making it and set about playing with it right away.  She even named the doll “Petunia.” *grin*  For her birthday she told me she wanted pancakes for breakfast, burgers for lunch and macaroni & cheese for dinner.  Sounds good to me!  I made cranberry-chocolate-chip pancakes, we went to Crazy Burger for lunch (so good!) and then had Annie’s shells – a family favorite – for dinner.  She requested ice cream for dessert, but since I didn’t feel like spending the money for all of us to go out somewhere, I bought amaretto cherry gelato from Target – it was heavenly!

Josiah was a little less decided about what he wanted for his birthday – he would be content to stuff his face with fruit all day!  Gwen was with her grandma so he got to spend the day with Mommy and Daddy.  He opened gifts over breakfast and then we – along with my visiting twin brother and his wife – went to my weekly doctor’s appointment and got to see pictures of the baby (always a bit nerve-wracking because you don’t know if something is wrong, but still a highlight of my week).  We went to Panera for lunch, hung out with Aunt and Uncle making silly faces on their IPad and had healthy chocolate chip cookie pie for birthday dessert.

I ended using some of the birthday ideas I had stowed away, making a lemon-raspberry cake (based on this recipe) with a colorful pom pom garland.  I made an extra half recipe of the cake to make cupcakes, stacking two of them to make mini cakes for the kiddos.  The mini cakes were cute – especially on slices of cedar that Daddy cut – albeit a bit tipsy.  Somewhat said they looked a bit Seuss-ish; I’ll take that as a compliment!

Aside from cake and ice cream we had homemade Martinelli’s in a big punch bowl, cheese and crackers, pita chips with homemade lentil dip and pizza hummus, an assortment of fresh fruit and peanut M&Ms (thank you, Halloween clearance).

I absolutely love how the ruffled streamers turned out and almost wish I had made more – though I had two huge rolls when all was said and done.  Dan and Jenn were good sports and helped me string them from the beams and loft railing across the living room ceiling.  I put some random streamers across a white tablecloth for the food table.

We were so blessed to have both local and out-of-town family be a part of our celebration.  I’m always telling people not to bring gifts, but of course they come anyway, and they were a big hit.  The kiddos have been enjoying all their generous gifts – Gwen decorating and stocking her new jewelry box, playing with her snazzy dollhouse, watching “Brave” and practicing archery with a homemade bow and arrow.  Josiah is utterly cute and smashing in his fire chief boots and has hardly taken them off, wearing them while riding his wooden trike, playing with his new puzzles and tractors and eating fruit snacks.

Despite all the wonderful happenings and celebrations last week, and the fact that I’m a bit sad we had to say goodbye to faraway family, I’m glad things have settled down a bit and we’re back to our normal routine.  December, here we come!

Next Week

Next week will probably be one of the busiest times of the year.  With two kiddos born the week of Thanksgiving there’s a lot to celebrate!  We’ll celebrate Gwen’s fifth birthday, Josiah’s third birthday two days later, Thanksgiving after that, and then have a family birthday party for the kiddos on the weekend. 

Thanksgiving will be at my parents’ house but the gals in my family will contribute. I’ll be making Anise Honey Wreath Loaves from the Williams-Sonoma Thanksgiving Entertaining cookbook, roasted root veggies from The Eat-Clean Diet for Family and Kids, and a version of this pumpkin pie:

Ginger-Pumpkin Meringue Pie – credit

Every year I think of combining birthdays with the holiday, but if I do that other people may not be able to come since they’ll be with their own families.  As it is, they’ll share a birthday for a while.  Hey, as a twin I grew up sharing a birthday and I loved it! 

People keep asking me if I have special birthday plans, and aside from cake, ice cream and some gifts, I’m going really low-key this year.  I almost feel guilty because of it – I’m not buying matchy character cups, plates and napkins; I’m not going overboard with decorations; I’m not setting up an elaborate dessert table that seems to be all the rage. 

Last year we had a really fun train-themed party, but it all came together because we found my grandfather’s old train set while going through his things and we had just visited the Essex Steam Train over the summer and Phil made some wooden train station signs and I really wanted to make a train cake like my mother made when we were little.

We want the kids to have a special day with family but we also want to keep it simple.  I have so many cute party ideas stored away – just take a gander at my Pinterest boards! – but I’m only going with a few this year.  Here’s some of the inspiration I’m feeding from:

ruffled streamers – credit:
2 cupcakes for a mini cake – credit:
pom pom cake banner – credit:
mason jar candy decoration – credit:
birthday wreath – credit:
Triple Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake – credit:
Homemade Martinelli’s – credit:

I plan on making a lemon-raspberry version of the above cake, have a couple kinds of ice cream and some various snacks (chips, hummus, fresh fruit, etc.).  We have out-of-town family coming as well, so I’m trying to figure out how much to make!   

Josiah’s birthday gift is all wrapped, the Melissa & Doug Low Loader that I got last year and put away.  He actually found it a few months back and started unwrapping it – he’s such trouble – but I’m sure he’s forgotten about it by now.  Since it was already out of its packaging I wrapped each of the elements separately.

I still need to finish Gwen’s gift. I’ve sewed up most of the “mattresses” but haven’t done all twelve – arrrgh!  I made a little pea from wool roving and asked Phil to make a little wooden ladder so the princess can climb into her bed.  I’m so excited!  I hope she likes it. 

She’s so easy to buy for, it’s been hard to decide what to give her now and what to save for later.  We’re fond of Veggie Tales and I found a bargain copy of “Sweetpea Beauty“, which we checked out of the library at one point and really enjoyed (guess I’ll have to save “Tangled” for another time).  I also found a whole slew of books at a secondhand store over the Summer – a whole set of brand new Angelina Ballerina books, a favorite character of hers.  I gave her Angelina’s Halloween on Halloween morning along with her butterfly wings, plan to give her Angelina’s Christmas on Christmas and am saving Angelina’s Baby Sister for when the little one arrives in February – when to give her the rest??  I also found A Birthday for Frances – she was always a favorite of mine and Gwen has become fond of her as well. 

Looking forward to next week, not only the family celebrations and giving thanks for all of our blessings, but having my twin brother and sister-in-law stay with us.  I’ve been cleaning most of the morning and am worn out!  I’m feeling huuuuge at just over six month’s pregnant and am not quite sure how I’m going to last the winter.  

Wish me luck!