Lego Mania!

In our house we don’t just like Lego. In fact I think it would be a gross understatement to say like, and I’m not even sure the word love fits this bill. I think what we have borders on mania, yep, that’s it, Lego MANIA! In my book you’re never too old for Legos!

The boys have their sets:

And I have mine:

#legotownI might be a bit more disciplined when it comes to preserving what I’ve built, but the boys love to “free build” and enjoy all the special pieces that come with the various themed sets. Lego has provided our family countless hours of enjoyment and over the years we’ve built up quite a collection. We have sets in just about every theme available, and I’m quite sure we could invade a small country with our army of minifigures!

Because our mania runs so deep we’ve hosted not one, not two, but three different Lego themed parties over the years! Thinking of hosting your own Lego party? Check out some of these fun ideas:

Don’t Be the Missing Piece

These days digital invites rule, but I’m a theme girl and I love a good DIY project, so I decided to make the invitations when Simon’s turned 5. Who doesn’t love receiving a real invite in their mailbox?!

To make the invites pictured above, you’ll need the following supplies:

Red, white and yellow card stock, a circular paper punch, raised glue dots, Lego wrapping paper, and an inkjet printer. I downloaded the Lego font from the Internet as well as the Lego brick clip art.

Welcome to Legoland!

Decorations really add to the magic of any theme party! To create our own standees we had images of a traditional minifigure enlarged and then glued them to foam board. Recycled cardboard boxes and plastic cups were painted and repurposed into jumbo Lego bricks and we made our own window clings! Making your own window clings is easy! We used the Klutz Window Art Kit and printed our own images as templates. Do keep in mind that window art takes a full 24 hours to dry.

Lego Brick Cakes 

To make these fun Lego brick cupcakes you’ll need the Lego silicone cake mold, which can be purchased online. To give the “bricks” color I added Wilton icing colors to the batter prior to baking. To ensure that the entire cake releases from the mold, studs included, be sure to grease all the nooks and crannies.

Rather then decorate them prior to the party we left the cakes unfinished and made decorating them into one of the party activities. A big hit with the kids!

Party Games

With Lego the possibilities are truly endless and we had a great time coming up with fun games for the kids to play. In order to cut down on the chaos we split the kids into groups as they arrived and had them rotate from station to station with decorate your own cake included in the game rotation. Once the kids had cycled through all the stations we turned on a Lego video to keep them entertained until it was time to go home.

Game ideas:

  • Memory – Show the kids a board full of Lego pieces for one minute and then ask them to write down as many as they can remember.
  • Find the Minifigure – hide minifigures around the house.
  • Lego Skee Ball – We created this skee ball game using an old carpet remnant and brightly colored paper.
  • Guess How Many – Fill a jar with Lego pieces and ask the kids to guess how many are in the jar.
  • Build the tallest tower.
  • Lego trivia game.
  • Free building

Take Home Treats

Making candy Lego bricks and Minifigures is a fun and easy project that everyone can participate in, and they make a great take home! My boys loved helping! Lego makes ice trays in both shapes and they can be ordered from Amazon, or directly from the Lego website. We chose to use the already colored Wilton Candy Melts to keep things simple, but using white chocolate and adding color works just as well and is probably a little tastier. If you want to make things really easy forget using colors and just use milk chocolate!

The melting process is simple and quick, just put the candies into a microwave safe bowl and heat them for one minute at a time on 50% power. Depending on how many melts you have in the bowl you may need to do this more than once. Stir them each time and keep in mind the melts won’t look softened until you stir them. For more control I used decorating bottles to fill the molds. The melts harden back up very quickly, so using one color at a time will you give you the best results.

To keep the layers of candy from bleeding into each other paint a thin layer of candy onto the bottom of the mold using a small brush. You’ll repeat this process for each color and then fill the molds to the top.

Once filled tap the molds on the counter to bring the air bubbles to the surface and then put them in the refrigerator or freezer to set. 5 to 10 minutes will do the trick!

Lego Iron-on T-shirts

Lego Mania-2161

To make these fun iron-on t-shirts you’ll need the following supplies:

Cotton t-shirts (any inexpensive brand), transfer paper for light fabric if you’re using white shirts, inkjet printer, lint brush, hot iron, scissors, wash and dry the t-shirts before getting started.

For this project we found free clipart online, but I’ve also had great luck finding images on Etsy. Before printing the image onto the transfer paper it’s a good idea to do a test run with a plain piece of paper to make sure it’s in the paper bin properly. My favorite brand of transfer paper is Avery. Use the normal or best ink setting on your printer for the best results. Cut the images as close to the edge of the images as possible making sure there is very little white space.

In preparation for pressing your image, iron the t-shirt by itself to remove any wrinkles or moisture in the fabric. I also like to run a lint brush over the shirt to make sure there isn’t any laundry lint that could show through the images once they’re pressed on.

Press the images onto the t-shirt using the hottest setting on your iron and make sure to apply quite a lot of pressure with both hands. Move the iron around until you’ve gone over the entire image. Depending on the size of the image you’ll need between 30 to 90 seconds of pressing.

Happy Building!

 

A Super Birthday For Your Little Hero!

When Elliot turned 4 “we” decided on a superhero theme for his birthday party! I love all things superhero and its no stretch to say that although I’m the lone female in a house full of boys I’m also the biggest fan. Lucky for me my boys decided to go with the program!

Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, DC or Marvel I find it difficult to pick an absolute favorite (though if pressed to decide Batman would win hands down). Good thing we don’t have to decide on just one!

Elliot’s birthday is in the summer, so we invited the kids to a local park for Superhero Training!

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And The Oscar Goes To…

#academyawards

#Oscarstatues

I love the movies! Not just watching movies, but everything about the entire movie going experience. From the coming attractions and warm buttery popcorn to watching the very last credit roll across the screen! The Academy Awards Ceremony is a perfect excuse to combine my love of movies with a few of my other favorite things… spending time with friends and throwing parties!

Whether you’re rolling out the Red Carpet or planning something a little more casual here are some fun ideas to get you started.

Literally, Roll Out the Red Carpet!

Why not make your front walk into the Red Carpet? Your guests will love to “walk” the Red Carpet on their way into the party. We rented a red carpet runner from a local event planning company, but most party websites offer a more economical version and when all else fails red butcher paper will also do the trick! Before they entered the party our guests had their photo taken by “paparazzi” in front of a movie themed backdrop. The photos were a nice take way and we made them available to take home at the end of the night.

We repurposed discounted fabric from another event to make some curtains and white holiday lights gave everything a nice warm glow. However, if you’re not into DIY, Ikea is a great resource for reasonably priced lighting and curtains. Plastic popcorn buckets made great vases and we filled them with an assortment of white flowers to make the perfect “popcorn”!

Academy Awards-3019

Beyond Popcorn & Soda

Movie snacks are a definite favorite of mine and while I am perfectly happy to have popcorn in place of any meal, I have a feeling my guests would like something more. Heavy hors-d’oeuvres are perfect for an event like this. I like to keep the size down to one or two bites making them easy to serve and eat! After all no one likes trying to juggle, plates, napkins and drinks while trying to eat and socialize.

Small Bites:

  • Cucumber slices topped with herbed cheese spread, bacon and cherry tomato slices and cucumber slices topped with herbed cheese and smoked salmon with scallions.
  • Grilled Asparagus with olive oil and shredded Manchego
  • Chicken and beef skewers with dipping sauces
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts topped with goat cheese, pear and dried cranberries
  • Sesame noodle salad
  • Strawberry and balsamic crostini
  • Mini Coconut Cream pies

These are just a few ideas, but the sky is the limit when considering options. Another fun idea is to serve foods based on the movies up for an award. Some examples of this are: mini cheesecakes (Brooklyn) and potato pancakes (The Martian). You get the idea!

Academy Awards- And The Winner is…

Academy Awards-3028Prior to the party provide your guests with the official Oscars Nominee List and ask them to make their guesses in each category. The guest who guesses the most correct winners goes home with a pair of movie tickets!

Movie Mania

If you read my New Year’s Post you’ll know that my resolution was to see all the movies nominated for Academy Awards in the Best Picture, Actor and Actress categories and so far I’m doing pretty well! I’ve seen 19 of this year’s nominated films and I’m hoping to get in a few more before the big day!

 

 

Teenager In The HOUSE!

#coolestparentseverMy older son recently turned 13 and because it’s a milestone birthday something extra special was in order! Of course now he’s a teenager and planning something he and his friends would consider “cool” did present something of a challenge. I was up for the task!

When considering what direction this party would take there was only one clear choice: Video Games! Simon has never met a video game he didn’t like! I know I’m not the only parent with a video game fanatic on her hands and I’m sure some of you can probably relate.

The  Venue

Gone are the days of cute little kids running around our house and yard, these teenagers are big, loud and not just a little smelly, this party had to be anywhere else! We considered hiring a video game truck, but our street doesn’t really lend itself to that and I’m sure they’d find their way back inside the house in no time. Another option was hitting up the arcade at a nearby mini golf place, but I’m not a big fan of games that spit out tickets and something a little more private seemed in order…

#highscores

Enter the High Scores Interactive Arcade Museum located in Alameda, California. High Scores focuses mainly on the classic games of the 1980s and is available to rent for private parties or events. The decor is classic video game arcade with a jukebox and laser lights thrown in for effect. All the old favorites are present, Mario Bros, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Paper Boy, Frogger, even my personal favorite Crystal Castles! You name it they’ve got it!

#fixitfelixjr

We weren’t in the arcade 5 seconds before the kids, and most of the adults, made a direct beeline for the games! We took a break for cake toward the end of the party, but otherwise the “kids” had two blissful hours of nonstop play!

#ilovevideogames

High Scores was a huge success! The time flew by and no one wanted to go home at the end. I might be going out on a limb here, but I have a feeling the goal of throwing Simon a “cool” party was achieved! If you’re in the Bay Area or are planning a visit this place is definitely worth checking out. Its open to the public Wednesday thru Sunday and payment is per player/per hour so you won’t need coins or tokens.

The Cake(s)

Simons 13th Birthday-Twice a year I make an elaborate cake, one for each boy’s birthday. They get to pick the design. In keeping with our retro video game theme Simon asked that I make replicas of the controller from the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  I enjoy baking, but what I love more is the challenge of decorating the cake! Game on!

How To Make NES Controller Cakes – Player 1 & Player 2

NES Controllers are long and thin, so I decided to make two one layer cakes for a more realistic effect. Two 9 x 13 cakes were baked and trimmed to the desired size. The printed template measured two times the size of the original controllers.

The cakes should be completely cooled before you trim them to size and then covered in a thin layer of buttercream.

Next you’ll want to prepare the fondant. I wanted light grey, so decided to make it myself using black food paste and white fondant. Using a toothpick add small amounts of the black food dye to the fondant and then knead until you achieve the desired color.

After rolling the fondant out transfer it to a piece of parchment paper and roll it up. When you are ready you can unroll the fondant right onto your frosted cakes.

Once the cakes have been covered with the base layer of fondant its time to start cutting out the small detail pieces. Use the template as a guide and remember to cut two sets of each shape if you’re making two controllers. A dab of water is all you need to “glue” the individual pieces together. The “cord” was made of black licorice.

 

 

Tis The Season… To Dress Up!

I love this time of year for many reasons, not the least of which are all the fun excuses to get dressed up! No matter the occasion for the next four weeks all events call for a little more glitter, glitz and glam! Parties, lunches, dinners, any excuse will do!

Because, it’s not exactly reasonable to purchase a new dress for every event… I have a few ideas in mind.

Idea #1: Making Something Old Into Something New

Recently when going through my closet I came across a few dresses that I hadn’t worn in ages, but I just couldn’t bring myself to donate. Since I wasn’t willing to give them up maybe I should try to wear them again? Why not see if I could refurbish them?

Once upon a time when I was dating my husband, he gave me a lovely dress for a holiday gift… and I still have it… and it (mostly) still fits! Okay, full disclosure: two kids and 17 years later I had to give myself a tiny bit of breathing room up top.

Here I am wearing the dress to the Last Call Millennium Ball in 1999 and again just last week to a celebration dinner in the city. I spent $65 dollars on tailoring and wallah a new dress! Not too shabby!

I was the matron-of-honor in my sister’s wedding 5 years ago and nice sister that she is I was able to choose my own dress. I picked up this amazing Emporio Armani at a pre-sale, not only unique, but very comfortable! It’s made of stretch wool and perfect for winter occasions. I’ve always loved this dress, but unlike the dress above this one was too big and needed to be taken in quite a bit.

Here I am wearing the dress in the wedding and I’ll be wearing it again 5 years later to a party next week! I spent $135 on the tailoring and I hope to wear it at least a few more times.

Idea #2: Rent The Runway

Lucky for me, I’ll be attending a number of fun events this season and while I am very pleased with the outcome of the two dresses above, I’d love a few more options.

I’ve decided to try renting a dress from a website called, Rent The Runway. Have you heard of it? It’s quite simple really, choose from the thousands of designer clothes and accessories, wear them to your event(s), and then return it all via UPS.

Although I have a number of friends who use Rent The Runway regularly, this will be my first time using it. There are so many fun options my fingers are crossed it’s a success!

The dress on the left is my first choice. I’ll be receiving two of them. One is a backup, on the off chance the sizing isn’t quite right. The outfit on the right is my second choice as insurance on the even bigger chance that the first one just doesn’t work at all. I get to keep both dresses for four days! I spent $120 dollars on rental fees and that includes the return shipping.

Just incase…

Things don’t go as planned with Rent The Runway… I do have a backup or a few!

Idea #3: Okay, I Did Pick Up A Few Items

My new faux fur leopard print jacket goes well with almost everything and keeps me warm to and from! Paired with a fresh new pair of black heels I’m all set!

For more casual occasions I picked up a faux leather hoodie and I love it paired with, well, just about everything!

Whatever you decide to go with, old made new, something rented or your tried and true favorites, have fun with it and enjoy the season!

 

Making A Tsum Tsum Birthday Party!

My son Elliot had his 7th birthday last week and we decided to make it a Tsum Tsum party! If you haven’t heard of Tsum Tsums (pronounced soom soom) yet, you surely will soon! They’re adorable little stylized versions of Disney characters in three sizes, mini, medium and large! They started in Japan and came to the United States within the last year. They’re also featured in a video game of the same name that can be found on the App Store. We love all things Disney and these cuties are no exception!

IMG_5573Although there is Tsum Tsum merchandise aplenty in Japan, it’s much more difficult to find here in the states, so I decided to make my own party favors and games to fit with our theme! We made Tsum Tsum t-shirts, a piñata,  party games and of course the cake! We chose seven different characters and used them for everything!

How to Make a Tsum Tsum Iron on Shirt!

You’ll need the following supplies before you get started: cotton t-shirts, transfer paper for light fabric or dark fabric depending on your t-shirt color, inkjet printer, lint brush, hot iron, scissors,wash and dry the t-shirts before getting started.

While you can probably find an image on the internet, most are not available in a high enough resolution to enlarge for a t-shirt.  If you have design software and some free time you can probably play around and make the images work, but I’ve also had great luck finding images on Etsy. For this project I was able to find what I needed for $3!

Before printing the image onto the transfer paper it’s a good idea to do a test run with a plain piece of paper to make sure it’s in the paper bin properly. Be sure you’ve got the right transfer paper. I tried three different brands for this particular project and my favorite was Avery Labels.

If you have any writing on your image and you’re printing it onto a light-colored shirt you’ll want to print the mirror image so it will be facing the right direction when pressed on. Use the normal or best ink setting on your printer for the best results. Cut the images as close to the edge of the images as possible making sure there is very little white space.

In preparation for pressing your image, iron the t-shirt by itself to remove any wrinkles or moisture in the fabric. I also like to run a lint brush over the shirt to make sure there isn’t any laundry lint that could show through the images once they’re pressed on.

Press the images onto the t-shirt using the hottest setting on your iron and make sure to apply quite a lot of pressure with both hands. Move the iron around until you’ve gone over the entire image. Depending on the size of the image you’ll need between 30 to 90 seconds of pressing.

I purchased the t-shirts at Michael’s Craft Store for $3.99 and including the transfer paper and the Etsy image each t-shirt comes to about $9.  A little bit on the pricey side for a party favor, but they will definitely get better use than the usual bag of plastic toys that end up on the floor of my car after each birthday party!

Tsum Tsum Party Games!

We had planned to play three games at the party, but it turned out that two games along with the piñata, dinner and cake was more than enough activity. We played Pin the Tsum Tsum and did a Tsum Tsum spoon relay race. It was quite a hot day, so we also took a short break in the middle of the party and watched some short Tsum Tsum videos inside. We had the supplies for the relay but needed to create the Pin the Tsum game.

Pin the Tsum Tsum!

We played this just like any “pin the… game” with the traditional blindfold and spin, but in our version each child had their own character and the goal was to place it upon the stack in the right position!

I thought this game would be so easy for the kids, but surprisingly it was just the right amount of challenging! I recommend using blue painters tape so you can reuse the game later or even hang up the cute poster in your child’s room after the party!

You’ll need the following supplies to make the Pin the Tsum Tsum: inkjet printer, scissors, card stock, poster board, glue stick, roll of solid blue wrapping paper, tape, and a black sharpie.

The background of the Tsum Tsum video game is blue, so I’ve chosen to cover the board in blue wrapping paper. I used tape to wrap it onto the board, so I can reuse the board for another project later.

Decide what size you want each character to be and then print two of each.  One for the board and one for the child to “pin” to the board during the game. If there is any white space on the edges of the darker characters after you cut them out use a black sharpie pen and lightly outline the dark areas.  When you lay them onto the blue background the white won’t show.

Lay out your characters and then glue them to the background.

Tsum Tsum Relay Race!

For this relay game we broke the kids up into two teams. The kids then ran back and forth with mini Tsum Tsums on the end of plastic spoons.  It was a perfect game for kids this age, a little bit challenging, very silly and not too long! We did best two out of three!

The Pinata

No birthday party at our house is complete without the piñata! However, there aren’t any Tsum Tsum Piñatas at the local party store, so we made our own! It’s actually much simpler than you’d think! Really!

How to make a piñata!

To make your piñata you’ll need the following supplies: newspaper strips, a punch balloon, twine, painters tape, cornstarch, water, colored construction paper, felt or foam, acrylic paint, double-sided tape.

Paper Mache Recipe:

2 cups water
2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup cornstarch

IMG_5498Boil two cups of water on the stove. While you’re waiting for the water to boil add the cornstarch to the cold water and stir it in with a whisk. Once the water boils, add the cold cornstarch mixture and turn the mixture down from high to low. Stir constantly for 2 minutes until all mixed. The mixture should the consistency of a thick cake batter. It will also be somewhat clear and gelatinous.

It will be VERY hot!

While you’re waiting for the paper mache to cool off tear or cut newsprint paper into medium-sized strips.

We used a Punch Ball balloon that I found at our local toy store because it’s a bit stronger than your typical balloon. Just remove the rubber band, blow it up and you are ready to go!

IMG_5438Once the cornstarch glue is cooled off enough to touch dip strips of newspaper one at a time into the mixture and cover it completely on both sides.  While you do want each strip to be completely covered you don’t want it to be dripping.  Lay the strips one at a time on the balloon until you’ve completely covered it.

You’ll want to complete this process twice. If you laid out your strips vertically on the first layer then you’ll want to lay them out horizontally on your second layer.

You can use little bits of wadded up newspaper to create structure to your piñata!  In this case we are making a Donald Duck Tsum Tsum so we used the end of the balloon to create the duck-bill!

About two or three layers in take a piece of the twine and wrap it around the middle of your piñata taping into place. This will be what you use to attach the hanging rope when it’s all finished! At this point it’s a good idea to hold it up and make sure it’s hanging level.

Keep in mind that the balloon inside will expand and contract in the heat of the sun and the coolness of evening. If possible you might want to bring it inside at night, so the temperature drop isn’t as extreme. If you do get some lumpy spots you can fix them when you apply the next layer. Because I would be painting the piñata white I did four layers of newsprint and two layers of white craft paper. I let it dry after at least a few hours between newsprint layers and then completely between the newsprint and the craft paper.

IMG_5499Once you’ve got your structure complete its time to decorate! Lucky for me I just happened to have some paint, colored foam sticker sheets and glue on hand!

I used the inkjet printer to print out Donald’s hat, eyes and bow tie and I decided to paint his “shirt” and his beak! Then I put them onto the foam sticker sheet to give them some structure.  I used double-sided foam tape to affix the eyes, hat and bow tie.

Once your piñata is decorated you’ll want to create an opening in order to put your candy or treats inside. I chose the top just behind the hat, so it would be hidden from view. I used an exacto knife to cut through as once dry your piñata will be much stronger than you might expect! Rather then just dropping the candy directly into the hole I like to place a handful of candy treats into individual baggies. I don’t like it when the kids are scrambling and shoving to get the loot and all they come away with is a bag full of dirt and a few pieces of dirty candy. I create one bag for each child which eliminates the frenzy and the candy doesn’t get dirty either!

The Tsum Tsum Cake!

Once or twice a year I make an elaborate cake, usually for the kid’s birthday parties!  This year we decided to invite our adult friends as well as Elliot’s friends so it had to be a pretty large cake.  It was the biggest one I’ve ever baked! I enjoy baking, but what I love more is the challenge of decorating the cake!  I modeled it after the Pin the Tsum Tsum game we made.

Wow! Who knew I would like this blogging thing so much?!

IMG_4131A very surprising thing has happened!  The more I dig into writing this blog the more I am realizing how much I am enjoying writing it!  The only problem is now I can’t stop thinking up things I would like to write about. I definitely have many more travel ideas to share as well as thoughts about parties, costumes, make up, art, running and fitness, the latest movies, books and music my family have been enjoying and so much more. I thought maybe I’d post a list here of what some of my upcoming posts might be about. Of course if anyone is interested in some more than others than I would welcome that feedback!

In recent years we’ve been fortunate enough to do quite a bit of traveling and I’d like to write about those destinations that we’ve been to more recently while they are still fresh in my mind!  Some thoughts for other future travel related posts are: Cocoas from around the world and Where in the world is Batman (Lego Batman that is…).

Posts about recent trips in Asia and Europe might be, Tokyo and Kyoto, Paris and Disneyland Paris, Edinburgh and the Highlands, Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre and Pompeii, Bilbao, San Sebastian and maybe more on Barcelona.  Of course there are the rest of my London posts which include shopping, museums, palaces and castles, attractions, and eating.

In the United States I’m looking forward to writing about my many trips to Disneyland and LegoLand. Also in SoCal: LA, Santa Monica, and San Diego – Comic Con. In NorCal there is San Francisco, Yosemite and Silicon Valley!  Look for Seattle, Chicago, New York and Hawaii soon!

I’ll be doing some serious research on future trips I would like to take and those include: Ireland, Thailand, Croatia, Netherlands and possibly somewhere tropical! I think Tim is hoping for Australia.  Of course I hope to start and end some of these journeys in my favorite city, LONDON!

IMG_1866When I’m not traveling and working out I am often planning, throwing and attending parties! Theme parties, formal parties, birthday parties for kids and adults, backyard parties, and fundraising parties! Of course there is the annual Halloween party we attend and that always entails a fairly elaborate costume! For the past few years I’ve helped plan and run a large auction for my children’s elementary school.  This is a photo of my running girls at our last auction event which was an Arabian Nights theme.