Monday 31 August 2020

Katie's Frozen Birthday Party


I’ve always tended to go overboard when party planning – be it a birthday, wedding, a company Christmas party, any sort of shower – I throw myself into it 100% and try to make it amazing.  That behaviour is the main reason I opted to attend an Event Management Program after finishing University – I figured it was something I loved doing, why not try and make a career out of it. While I haven’t yet made a career out of it – there is still time! – my love of all things event planning has remained.

With COVID being a thing and many things still shut down or not seeming safe, I didn’t have much else to focus on. So that focus went into Katie’s 2nd Birthday planning. Add in my father – who I probably inherited my party planning gene from – and it went to a whole new level. Here are some highlights from her Frozen themed party.


I opted for a backyard BBQ in our outdoor kitchen so we could keep it distanced and spaced out (thankfully the weather cooperated!) and kept the guest list at just family and close friends we have been seeing often. I wish I could have invited a ton more people and all her little friends but again, with COVID it just didn’t seem like a smart idea. I also kept the food simple – hot dogs, hamburgers, salads and pizza from the pizza oven.


When I first decided on the Frozen theme (Katie LOVES all things “Let it Go” as she calls it), I wanted to hang a few snowflakes from the beams in the outdoor kitchen. I was thinking just a few – maybe 15 max. But finding snowflakes in August proved hard. Amazon has a lot – but not a great snowflake selection. All I could find were small paper or foil ones, or really expensive wood ones. This is where my father came in. he recently purchased a laser cutter for work and figured this was an easy project to undertake. We found a variety of snowflake images from Google and bought some large foam board from ULINE. From there he and his friend took over – and used the images to develop a range of snowflake templates for the laser cutter. They made them 3D and in a variety of sizes – they also made me 100 of them! I was pretty speechless when I was given bundles and bundles of snowflakes. The snowflakes were printed on white foam board but some of them had some burning on the edges – a product of the laser – so I opted to glitter-ize them. I used Martha Stewart glitter spray paint on some and I used a combination of glitter spray paint and actual glitter on others. When I ran out of spray paint, I used some Elmers Spray Adhesive with glitter – this method didn’t work as well – it took longer to dry and was really gummy feeling – but it still did the job. This project was a large undertaking – I was outside working on these for 3 afternoons and it involved multiple trips to Michaels for supplies. And afterward the backyard was covered in glitter – the desk, the floor, the garden beds etc due to the wind. Even a week later after multiple rainstorms, it is still pretty sparkly out there! But the finished project was incredible. And the snowflakes can easily be repurposed to Christmas decorations which is another area I tend to go overboard on.

Hanging them was also a process – after multiple trips up and down a ladder, Dad created some contraption with a large stick and thumbtacks to stick them up easier. Even with that hanging these things took about 8 hours over the course of 2 days – and there was 5 of us working on them. They are still hanging there – they look so pretty and were so much work no one is in a rush to take them down. They have held up better then I thought – we have had a few really windy days and some rainstorms and only two have fallen down. Part of me hopes they can just stay up until Christmas. We don’t tend to use the space as much in the fall/winter but maybe this will inspire us to.

Since we had a bunch of foam board left over, we also used the laser cuter to create some images of the Frozen characters. Party City sells these life size cutouts of them, but they are almost $50.00 each, and there are 4 of them. I couldn’t justify spending $200.00 on that, so we printed them instead. They weren’t life size but they worked perfectly. We used photo paper to print the images and mounted them on the foam and boards cut by the laser cutter. Katie was so happy when she saw them – even now, she goes up to them daily to point and smile. I figure I can use them as décor in her room for the time being – and maybe down the line I will sell them. 

I also bought a cool photo backdrop from Party City figuring we could do some photos in front of it. But measurement and math have never been my strong suit, so I didn’t really pay attention to the sizing. It is meant to be taped on a wall so it was much larger then I realized. I was just going to forget about using it but dad had other ideas. Buying a sheet of wood from Home Depot and some wood pieces he created a photo backdrop and adhered the two main images to it. Then we hung some snowflakes from it and glued some cotton to the bottom to look like snow. The finished project was a larger then life backdrop that made for some amazing photos.

One of the things I kept seeing on Pinterst for Frozen themed parties was this really cool Blue Punch – so I wanted to make that. I found a double punch dispenser on clearance and figured I would make two types. There was a reason this thing was on clearance it leaked and barely dispensed anything – but it was pretty and the kids loved it. They had a patience to stand there while it trickled out slowly and had a blast being “fancy” with the plastic champagne flutes I found at Costco. 

Blue “Frozen” Punch:

A bottle of Blue Hawaiian Punch

A bottle of 7 up

1 large can of Pineapple Juice


Raspberry Sparkle Punch

A bottle of 7 up

1.5 Cans of Pink Lemonade

(If serving in a punch bowl – I use fresh raspberries and make an ice ring using a bunt pan and some sliced up lemons and limes)


I also went a bit crazy and created a desert table. I knew I wanted to give away some cookie favors – we have this one amazing baker we have used a bunch of times so I asked her to make me a bunch of cookie wands. She made these beautiful snowflake wands and a few ones with “2” on them. They were so pretty I knew I had to display them some way. I thought about doing a few different things with glass jars but I had trouble finding something that could display all 30 of them at once. I didn’t want to have to worry about refilling or having them multiple places. I saw these round foam shapes that are often used to make cake displays and had an idea to make a three-tier version to display the cookies. I covered them in a silver organza that was on clearance and then wrapped the sides in a blue rhinestone fabric – for this I also used the Elmer’s Adhesive. I used cake dowels to elevate them.

I ordered a cake from a local Baker I wanted to try – The Barenaked Baker – whose cakes always looked stunning and delicious. She didn’t disappoint  - the Frozen themed lemon cake was both. Her cake options for flavors and icing spanned 2.5 pages with some interesting options I’ll be sure to try for my next event. But she offers a lot of nut-based options and with three guests having nut allergies I wanted to make sure there was something nut-free. Initially I was going to order a dozen cupcakes from a nut-free bakery but they wanted $42.00 for 12…. To me that was a bit too much. So I made them myself. Google and YouTube helped me find a tutorial for making two toned icing – it was much easier then I thought! Basically its three piping bags – a large one and two smaller ones. You fill the small ones with the icing colors you want and then put them both inside the lager one. Voilà – a two-tone swirl! I used a frozen cupcake set I got from Party City to decorate along with some small snowflake rings I found on Amazon. My friend who is an amazing crafter made me a stunning cake topper which just completed the overall look matching the cake to the cupcakes.

A friend of mine was bringing her new boyfriend who does Photography on the side and he generously offered to take some photos for me. He had tried a batch of Salted Caramel squares I made a few weeks back and had loved them, so I figured I would make a few batches to also have at the party. I topped them with some frozen themed sprinkles I found at Walmart which worked into my theme. My sister-in-law also made some of my favourite Party Tarts – so there was a large amount of desert options. I found a four tier serving tray on Amazon that lights up and that made the perfect backdrop to display all the delicious treats. I also bought some boxes so I could package up extra treats to send home as additional favours. 

One of the things I found on Pinterest for Frozen themed parties was fake snow stations that kids could play in. I didn’t have enough kids to create a whole baby pool of snow (that would have been cool if I had) but I figured I would make some as decoration. I found fake snow on Amazon – it was supposed to make 10 gallons of snow – and maybe it did but it didn’t feel like a lot. It added a nice touch and was easy to make/clean up. Plus the kids loved it – they were throwing it at each other which was pretty cute.


For the entrance to the outdoor kitchen I wanted to do something pretty so I found some sheer blue curtains at Home Depot and two strands of curtain lights. I hung them at the entrance way and it made a very regal feel combined with the overall visual of the snowflakes, snow topped trees and mantle decorated with the character cutouts.  I did buy a cheap fog machine but that ended up being a bit of a mistake as the space was too small and everyone felt like it was suffocating them so it was quickly turned off! But I can use it for Halloween so it wasn’t a total waste.


I also made centerpieces, which ended up being a bigger and more expensive project, then I anticipated. I got some large mason jars which I spray painted in varying shades of Blue and then topped them with glitter spray paint. I put some battery operated twinkle tights inside them, and found a bunch of blue/silver fake floral/wreath making supplies from Michaels. Even with a Buy 1/Get 1 sale on all the floral stuff it was costly. I justified it to myself that these are all easily reusable/transferable to Christmas décor – truthfully I probably overused that justification for this party.  

One thing I really wanted was a Princess visit for Katie. She’s at the perfect age for it and I knew the kids would enjoy it. But Brian was opposed due to COVID – which I understood. So I opted to enlist my sister-in-law and friend as Elsa and Anna. I found costumes and wigs on Amazon, so it worked out well – and they have Halloween options. Katie absolutely adored this! I wish I had a photo or video of her reaction, but she was thrilled. She had no idea it was her aunt/mommy’s friend – to her it was the princesses at her party. Liam didn’t even realize it either – and is still talking about how Elsa and Anna came to Katie’s Birthday.

A lot of my party supplies came from Party City – the usual plates, napkins, glassware – and a lot of the décor items came from Amazon. I also used Open A Party for the first time – and I will definitely be using them again! 

They have an amazing selection – more then Party City – they are reasonably priced and have personalization options. Plus their shipping was super fast. I got a cool personalized garden sign for outside along with these cool water bottle labels.

The party was wonderful – the décor, the food, the guests – it was a party to remember. Everyone had a great time and most importantly Katie just adored all the Frozen elements. She’s been in a shy stage lately – likely due to her age and COVID keeping use kind of isolated from people – but she wasn’t at her party. She had such an amazing time; it made all the hard work worth it. Now to start thinking about her 3rd birthday next year!

Thursday 16 July 2020

This is just a stage.

Parenting is hard.

I was 30 years old when I had Liam and 32 when I had Katie. I had been married for over 5 years at that point, had been to University and College and had various jobs. I had always wanted kids – when I thought of my future it always included children. Plus I loved kids – I worked with them, volunteered with them, spend a lot of time with my younger cousins all throughout their childhood – I thought I was prepared for motherhood. But I wasn’t….

The sleepless nights, the worries & fear, teething, sickness, sleep regression, tantrums, daycare transitions, night terrors, terrible twos, biting, big emotions, epic meltdowns – the list is endless. And that was just with one kid. Going from one to two with only 2.5 years between them, made life even harder. Suddenly you are transitioning to having two kids, trying to help the older one adapt to the new baby, and going through all of the above at different times. Plus for those first few weeks you have all the post-partum pain and emotions going on, so that just makes it worse. It’s a lot.

Maybe motherhood and all it entails comes more natural to some people. I am sure there are supermoms out there that handle all of the previously mentioned aspects with ease and grace. Who find everyday, every struggle and every stage easy. I try to roll with it all. I try to keep calm during the harder aspects and not let it overwhelm me or get to me.  But sometimes it does. Tonight was one of those nights. It was a long day, I was exhausted and feeling crappy – and by dinner I was counting down the hours until bedtime. But bedtime wasn’t easy tonight – bedtime was drama, drama, drama. When I was putting Katie to bed, Liam was calling for me. When I was putting Liam to bed, Katie was crying for me. (Note – my husband works nights and leaves for work before bedtime – so 5 nights a week I am on my own for bedtime). For the next hour I was going back and forth between their rooms. Katie is teething badly (her molars are coming in) so she needed pain meds. Liam was upset that a glow in the dark star from his ceiling fell down. Katie needed cuddles due to the pain. Liam was upset about his light being left on. Katie lost her pacifier. Liam hurt his finger – it was never ending. 

When I first had Liam, the local Early Years Center ran a drop-in program called “Mindful Mamas”. Basically it was an hour-long timeslot once a week where new moms (I think it was aimed at moms of babies who were 0-12months) could drop in and connect with the leaders and other moms. Sometimes there was a specific topic but other times it was more open – going in whatever direction the moms that day wanted. It was led by some wonderful women – and was something I really enjoyed attending.  I found it helpful – not only to make connections with other moms – but for the reassurance it provided. I got to see that I wasn’t the only mom feeling overwhelmed, or with a ton of questions, or with some various concern. I got to raise those questions and concerns and get feedback, while providing my own input on other topics. It was an amazing resource for new moms and I was sad it was no longer running when I had Katie.

I don’t remember all the specific topics covered in the times I attended the program – it’s been over four years so I can only recall snippets here and there. But there is one thing I do remember – a piece of advice from the leaders that I took away and try and keep with me daily.

This is just a stage.

I can’t recall what topic brought up this advice – maybe it was teething, or sleep regression – but it was something that some of the moms were struggling with that day. And the leader made a point to remind us that almost everything in parenting is a stage. The stage can last a few days, a few weeks, a few months – maybe even in some cases years – but eventually that stage will end. And at some point you may even look back and miss that stage in some way. So her advice was to try not to be overwhelmed by these stages and try not to wish them away. Because while you are wishing away the teething, and then the sleep regressions, and then the terrible twos, and so on– your child is growing up and time is passing. So when things are hard, just take a deep breath, remind yourself it is a stage and won’t last forever, and focus on the good.

I honestly think that piece of advice is probably the best advice I ever got as a new mom. And while sometimes in the stress of a moment or day, it’s easy to forget that advice – I really try and keep it in mind.  

So after bedtime was finally over and I finally had a few moments of peace – I reframed my thinking and reminded myself that:

  • Liam eventually stopped teething and Katie will too.
  • Liam eventually slept through the night – and then every night– and Katie will too.
  • There will be a time that Liam won’t want or need me when he gets hurt – but I am lucky that day isn’t here yet.
  • That Katie cuddles are rare and worth every second because they also won’t last forever.
  • Despite the exhaustion and crappiness I am feeling, being a mom is the best feeling in the world and I am so lucky they still want me to tuck them in, read them stories and spend time with them.

So yes, parenting is hard. I am often overwhelmed and exhausted. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday 10 July 2020

Reading, Giving and the 29 Gifts Movement

Now that my kids are both sleeping in their own rooms and napping at the same time (both of these things took far longer then I expected) I finally have a bit more free time to myself – which was further helped by the pandemic. At the start of the lockdown I was in a cleaning/organizing frenzy, cooking, baking bread, walking, binge watching TV – all the things everyone else seemed to be doing. But when the lockdowns extended longer then I anticipated those things got boring. I needed a new tablet and finally convinced myself to spend an insane amount of money and get a new iPad mini. Once that arrived I started reading again. Thanks to the Overdrive app and access to the local library system I have been able to read a lot lately…. Far more then I have in years.

I am a member of the Goodreads community where you track the books you have read and can leave reviews/ratings for other members.  One of the things they have is a yearly challenge where you set your goal of books to be read each year. 

As you can see I haven’t been reading much the past few years. Which is crazy because reading has always been one of my most favorite pastimes. Ever since I was a little girl I have loved reading – and read often. I won a reading competition through my local library in the early 90’s and another one through my school due to the sheer volume of books I would read. (Both of those contests had kick ass prizes so that helped my motivation – through the library I won tickets to the Mirvish production of Beauty and the Beast, and from school a $100 gift certificate to a local fine jewelry store). My love of reading was also the main reason I opted to do a specialist in English in university. A University degree based around reading and discussing books? It was a dream! And when I wasn’t reading/discussing and writing about books for my English degree, I was working in the local bookstore. Working in a bookstore was a glorious thing – first, the discount was amazing, as was the ability to borrow hardcovers and read them (I feel like that perk may not continue to exist). Secondly, I was introduced to so many new series, authors and genres from my co-workers and customers. Lastly, I got to attend some cool events like author readings and trade shows. I was even more fortunate that I worked with some amazing people – and even now 15 years later, I still meet up with a group of former co-workers for our Good Times dinners as we have become lifelong friends

But recently between life and kids I didn’t have as much time for reading – or really any of my hobbies - so I didn’t do it as much. Having this time and access to free ebooks has reignited my passion for reading – and I have been spending most of my free-time doing just that. I’ve also been trying to expend my horizons and have been reading other genres and new authors.

One of the books I read, “You are a Badass:How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero (a really awesome book by the way!) included the book “29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life” as a recommended read.

Here is the Amazon summary for book:

"After a devastating MS diagnosis, one woman shares her inspirational journey in gratitude and generosity--in this New York Times bestseller. At age thirty-five, Cami Walker was burdened by an intensified struggle with multiple sclerosis, a chronic neurological disease that left her debilitated and depressed. Then she received an uncommon "prescription" from South African healer Mbali Creazzo: Give away 29 gifts in 29 days. 29 Gifts is the insightful story of the author's life change as she embraces and reflects on the naturally reciprocal process of giving. Many of Walker's gifts were simple--a phone call, spare change, a Kleenex. Yet the acts were transformative. By Day 29, not only had Walker's health and happiness improved, but she had also created a worldwide giving movement. 29 Gifts shows how a simple, daily practice of altruism can dramatically alter your outlook on the world."

The title and theme of the book immediately interested me so I checked it out from my library’s online catalogue. (Side note – I always vowed I would never read books on a tablet but I have really come to appreciate the ease and convenience of them, especially with the online catalogues during the pandemic). Once I started the book I was hooked. The story was compelling and the writing was honest and truthful. The book is categorized as self-help, but it isn’t something full of research and facts – it’s simply the story of the author - her journey and her life. The author is honest about her past struggles with addiction and mental health and how her MS diagnosis and flare-ups played a role in those. When she began her 29 Days of Giving, she was in a really dark place – but slowly through these acts of selflessness, she began to switch her mindset. She felt more positive and was able to focus on the good in her life. She felt happier and slowly felt healthier too. By the end of the 29 days she was in a much better place – personally and professionally. Her marriage was stronger, her life full with new friendships, her career seemed to be in a better place and she had started this amazing movement. She wrote online about her 29 Gifts and started an online community where others joined to do the same. By the end of her 29 Days, there were over 100 other people participating and that number only grew. Her book became a bestseller, it was talked about on Oprah and the Today Show and her giving movement and community continued to rapidly grow.  

It was a quick read – but a compelling one - and I managed to finish it in a day. At the end I felt moved, uplifted and inspired. I tend to be the type of person who tries to focus on the good rather then the negatives anyways, but the book just spoke to me on some level. Maybe it’s the whole scary pandemic atmosphere we are currently living in, or some of the aspects of my own life I am not completely happy with – either way, I finished the book grateful. I am so blessed – but sometimes it is easy to forget the good. It is so easy to let the stress of the day get to us. To focus on what went wrong or unaccomplished. To read the news and be upset at the state of the world or fearful for all the evils and horrors that seem to surround us.

I see this in my parenting sometimes – where I am so focused on trying to get kids fed, or cleaned, or in to bed that I get annoyed at the little things that interrupt that. But often it’s those little things that can make the day memorable or special. For example - Liam’s new favorite game is “The floor is lava” and involves laying pillows, books, mats all over the place and jumping from them to avoid the “lava”. Obviously this creates a giant mess and tends to happen right before bedtime during puppy time. (Puppy time is the 10-30 minute period before bed where Liam, Katie and their cousin Rome play. It started with them playing with Paw Patrol toys and items – hence the name “Puppy Time” but is now a period of chaos right before bed!) So anyways, I would usually have the room all cleaned before bed only to have Liam going around throwing stuff back on the floor, jumping around (sometimes falling) and making a giant mess. This was stressful. I’d say we couldn’t play, get annoyed, and have to pick up all the toys again. Liam would be disappointed, I’d be annoyed – it just was meh all around. But it really is all about your outlook. Does the mess of the room really matter? Is some pre-bedtime insanity really an awful thing? Sure I am tired and just want the kids in bed, but these are memories being made. The past four years with Liam have shown me just how quickly it goes by – do I really need to rush bedtime and forgo these moments? Before I know it they won’t want puppy time or to play silly games like these – I have to stop and enjoy these little things. I have to change my outlook and focus on the positives and not the negatives. Trust me, it is hard – especially when tired and stressed after a long day with two kids – but its something I am trying to work on.

Anyways the book just spoke to me on many levels and I truly felt inspired to try and make some changes in terms of my outlook and focus. I also wanted to try the whole 29 Day Challenge myself. I figured it was such an amazing concept and what a great time to do it when we are in the midst of a pandemic. Plus I was curious about the author, so after I finished reading the book, I turned to Google.

Sometimes it is better to wonder.

The book was written in 2009 so it’s been over a decade since this movement began.
It turns out that the author recently passed away – I found an obituary for her dated April 2020. It provided a small glimpse into her life since the book – she and her husband had divorced (he was the man she wrote about with such love and appreciation), and she had remarried and had a child. There were a small number of tributes on the page – including one from the spiritual leader who had inspired her movement which simply (and almost coldly) stated “Rest in peace, may you travel well”.

I also found an online community for the 29 Gifts Movement – still active – which led me to the open Facebook page of the author, which she was using up until the time of her passing. She talked about the 29 gifts movement as well as her current struggles – her son was living with her parents in another state, she was separated from her current husband, she was living in a motel and trying to find some sort of affordable housing which was hard as she couldn’t afford much. There were also several links to a GoFundMe page where she was trying to raise money for some dental surgery she needed and something relating to her therapy dog. It painted a very sad picture of her recent life.

The whole thing left me really shaken and really stuck with me. It’s not like I knew this woman – and all I did know was gathered from a book, an obituary and a social media page. But there was such juxtaposition between the author as she presented herself at the end of the book to what she became at the time of her passing. The book ended with her hopeful and inspired. Over a year had passed between her initial 29 Days to the book being published – and in that year life was going well. She was happier, things were looking up, her marriage was strong, her friendships more meaningful and her business was doing well despite the confines of her illness.  Then the book came out and the movement became even more popular. The book became a best seller – she made appearances and got recognition from people like Oprah.

I don’t know what happened in that time between 2009-2020, and I am in no place to speculate based on an obituary and Facebook page.  But it just seems tragic. There weren’t any tributes on her Facebook page despite the thousands of friends. No articles about her passing and the incredible giving movement that she started. Nothing mentioned on the 29 Gifts website. Even the author, whose book included this as a recommended read, didn’t have anything posted acknowledging her passing.

I don’t know why this has stuck with me. Maybe it was seeing the face of her son in many images on her Facebook page – a little boy probably only a few years older then Liam. Maybe it was sadness over the reality that despite the positive place the author ended up in, life didn’t remain positive for her. Maybe it was facing the reality that sometimes life just sucks. I honestly don’t know. But whatever the reason, it really made me look at my own life. To really examine my own mindsets and focus on the things I have to be grateful for. And of course it reiterated the importance of selflessness – and made me vow to try and give/help others – as a part of my daily life.

Regardless of what happened in the author’s life over the last decade, she wrote an amazing book and started an amazing movement. I am so glad it was something I came across and read.