Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Very Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday - Food!

This was my first birthday party that did not involve a full meal. The timing of the party (2pm on a Sunday afternoon) just didn't justify a meal. So, I tried to get creative with our snacks.

The menu...
Chex mix & Gardettos
Veggies & Dip
My Granny's Sweet Sugar Popcorn
Chips & Queso Dip
Caramel Apple Bites

Our food table...

Caramel Apple Bites
These are so much better than whole caramel apples, and, much less mess. Cut your apples, stick a toothpick in them, dip into caramel sauce & refrigerate!

Caterpillar Twigs
By far the best way to serve veggies & dip. Cut your carrots & celery into sticks 3-4 inches long. In the bottom of a plastic punch cup, put some ranch dressing, then stand your veggie sticks on top. Personal serving sizes, and so cute!

Cute little smash cake :)
Can you believe he ate 3/4 of it too?! Sugar High!

And the star of the show....
Is this not the most awesome cake?! I found a picture online of this cake, but it was done in fondant - I hate fondant :( So I called this fantastic (part time mind you!) baker and she said she could do it in butter cream, and, the caterpillar on top in a giant cookie. When I saw the cake, I nearly cried. It was so perfect - and, a wonderful reflection of the caterpillars journey in the book. was truly the best tasting cake I have ever had. So fresh, so beautiful. Thank you JoEllen for making our first birthday cake so perfect!

A Very Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday - Decorations!

Our little caterpillar, with a big caterpillar!
For this, I purchased yellow & green paper lanterns from Amazon (base the size you purchase on the area you have to hang it in), cut the eyes out of construction paper (using my oval cutters from CM), and added purple pipe cleaners for antennas. We didn't have what we needed to hang it perfect, but this worked I thought :) After the party, we hung this in Jacob's room from the ceiling - it looks adorable!

My custom Birthday sign..
To create this I cut circles out of Green Paper (using my old time Creative Memories circle cutter!), and, the letters out of white paper on my cricut. It turned out so perfect, I love it! And, I can always replace the circle with the # birthday & reuse the banner. LOVE IT!

Table Decor..
I kept it pretty simple. Yellow & Green plastic table cloths ($1.25 each from DG), a helium balloon (opposite color of table cover), and, a picture of Jacob in a $1 acrylic stand (stands & pics printed at walmart). Family & Friends got to take home a picture when they left :)

Build your own caterpillar station..
I wanted an activity for the young children, and I thought this would be cute. I cut the colored circles out of construction paper (heavier grade) using the circle cutters again, cut 2 purple antenna's from pipe cleaners and pre-bagged these items. Black markers & glue sticks were in a basket on the table for them to put their caterpillar together.

My personal favorite...
This was definitely my favorite. We had paper & pens available for everyone to write a note to Jacob. We will open these on his 16th birthday. How fun!

1st Birthday Pictures..
Printing photo's is truly more affordable now than it has ever been. Take advantage of that, and, spice up a cake or food table, with prints of your little one. I printed copies of his 1st Birthday Smash Cake shoot, framed them ($1.50 black wood frames from Walmart) and placed them around the cake (oops - you got a sneak peak! full food post coming next!). We let the Grandparents each take a framed 8x10 home with them.

We also had copies of the book sitting around on tables for people to look at, and, Children to read.

This was such an easy First Birthday, and the Decorations were pretty affordable - especially when so much can be reused, or was given away as favors.

Stay tuned for my post on Birthday Party Food!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cole's Room...Progress!

Cole's room is finally starting to come together. I love progress!

For those of you who missed it. In November, we painted Cole's room "Later Gator Green", by his request (of course). Mom had this great vision of deep reds & browns (similar to what I did his original nursery in), but he didn't agree. After months (and I mean MONTHS) of debate, I was kindly reminded by my husband that it is, after all, "Cole's room". Ahhh...I was defeated. Well, not really - I scoured the interent for a GREEN room idea I could live with,and, found this wonderful idea for one wall to be striped. I was sold. We painted, striped & then put his letters back on the wall.
Then we started in on the closet. I had found this great idea on Pinterest to turn his 2nd closet into a built in study area/office. Since Cole already had 2 closets in his room, this was perfect & would eliminate so much clutter in the outter room. Getting my hubs on board wasn't easy at first, but once we got started, he quickly saw the genious in my plan :)
We started by painting the inside of the closet. I didn't want this to look anything like a closet anymore. But, I also didn't want that crazy green ... so, what did I do? Well, I found the most obnoxious blue of course! Which quickly became our accent color in the bedroom.
Once the paint was up, Jason ran electrical inside the closet for the computer & video games, and, we hung shelves high for me to organize all the crap I don't want to be an eye sore every day. We debated for awhile on the actual desk, I wanted to just use a small closet shelf, but Jason feared it woudln't hold up over time. So...he installed a counter top. It's perfect! Very sturdy & looks so good.
Here is our creation....

The frames will eventually hold some cool subway art I'm working on, but, in the meantime I couldn't handle them being empty - so I put some neat pictures of Cole with Jason & I as he grew up. The picture in the middle caught my flash, but it's a shot of Jason & Cole standing by the lake fishing...I love that :)

Here is a shot to show the contrast between the room colors & the closet colors.

There is still much to do. (Like labeling the storage bins, corralling the computer cords, Art for his room) But this is certainly a step in the right direction. I have a happy little boy to say the least!

(Heaven help us when we have to paint over those colors! ha!)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The BEST Baked Potato Soup...Ever.

Several years ago I was introduced to what I believe to be, hands down, the best baked potato soup. Ever. Period. I love it. Those of you who know Ms. Donna Turpin, know she is the master at created a soup out of bits & pieces and this "throw together" was a real winner. When I asked for the recipe, she did her best to remember everything she put in it, and, then I have tweaked a little here & there.

Warning: This soup takes almost 24 hours to make, and, is a little expensive...BUT, I assure you, it's worth it. It makes 2 full crock pots, so perfect to share, or to freeze for later!

Ingredients for Round 1:
Ham Bone (next time you make ham, save the bone w/ all the little tiny pieces of meat on them for the soup - you can just throw it in a ziplock bag & put it in the freezer until your ready to make soup)
3-4 Chicken Leg/Thigh Quarters (these are cheap! Bonus!)
Chopped Celery, Carrots, Onion (just a little) - I like about a cup of each celery & Carrots.
Chopped Green Pepper (optional - but if you do it, only about 1/4-1/2 cup is plenty).
Green Onions if you have them.
4 chicken bullion cubes
Basil, Thyme & Lemon Pepper
2 bay leaves

**Start this in the evening, to let cook all night. In first Crockpot, place 1/2 chopped veggies, ham bone, & water (fill the pot), add 1 bay leaf & 1/4 tsp (or whatever you like to taste) of each seasoning, set to low & let cook all night.
In the 2nd Crockpot, place chicken (skin first to reduce fat), the other half of chopped veggies, the 2nd bay leaf & the same amount of seasonings, set to low & cook all night.

By the time you wake up, your house will smell AMAZING!

Round 2: In the morning....
Pre-bake 3-4 pounds of potatoes in the oven or microwave (I prefer the oven, they hold up better), let cool completely, peel & dice (large chunks are fine, but small are better for some too.

Remove meat from crock pots. Pull any ham left on the bone off & place in pot, remove any extra chicken skin or fat, then dice or shred chicken & place back in bot.

4 hours before serving....
Mix the 2 pots of broth, each pot should have some chicken & some ham broth. This is a royal pain, but it makes the soup by blending the 2 flavors. I have found the easiest way is to find the largest bowl you have, pour both pots in, mix, then redivide in the 2 pots.

take your cool, diced potatoes & evenly split them between pots

Round 2 "Extras":
1 block of cream cheese
1 small container sour cream
1 block of cheese (I like colby, but cheddar is fine)
2 cans cream of chicken soup (could easily substitute mushroom or celery soups)
2 more chicken bullion cubes
1 pound of cooked & crumbled bacon

Take EVERYTHING listed above, and, evenly divide it between the 2 crock pots. For the block cheese, I find it better to take the time & shred it, then just chunk it up (it doesn't melt as well). After everything is in, continue to cook on low 4 hours. (I check seasonings after about 2 hours - that's a good point to know if it needs more of anything). Continue to stir every now & then as it has to melt the cream cheese & regular cheese.

Enjoy! Be ready to feel the most amazing euphoria after eating this soup. I'm fairly sure this soup is served in Heaven. It just must be.