Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fall Fun

I love fall, and fall in Pennsylvania does not disappoint.  It is just beautiful with the change of colors and the cooler weather.  There are lots of fun fall activities to do and it feels great to be outside, not too hot and not too cold.  

This year we went to Indian Echo Caverns for their Fall Festival.  

There were goats to pet, a corn box to play in, geodes to smash, tractors to ride, and a lot more.


While we were there, we also went to the pumpkin patch to pick out pumpkins.

Here are the girls scooping the seeds and gunk out of their pumpkins.

We thought we'd try something new this year and roast the pumpkin seeds.  After scooping out the seeds, I cleaned them and put them in a bowl with some melted butter, cinnamon and sugar.  After researching some recipes on Pinterest I thought baking at 300 for 40 minutes would be good.  Turns out that is too long so our seeds tasted more like burnt popcorn.  They were not flavorful at all and if we attempt this again (which I don't think we will), I'd bake them for half the time and add a lot more cinnamon and sugar.

The girls drew the faces on the pumpkins and I cut them out.  

So now our front porch looks like this.  The boys have yet to paint or carve their pumpkins, and I hope to get to that before Halloween.

We also went to a state park one windy Saturday afternoon.  Playing inside the kids can fight, but playing outside, they were great together.  There is just something about playing outside in nature that helps kids bond with one another. 

A few more pictures of what a beautiful day it was.

While at the park, the kids collected lots of acorns.  The girls decided to paint some of them.  I think the gold acorns and glittery tops turned out the best.

I'm not up on the different hunting seasons.  All I know is when we start to see pheasants in our yard, it must be pheasant season.  The other day, we saw 6 pheasants out back.  I could only get a picture of 5 of them as the leader of the pack was too fast and ran out of view before I could snap this picture. 

What do you enjoy most about fall?  What activities do you do with your kids?

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Pre-Teen Birthday Party

As the kids get older, it can get harder to plan a birthday party.  For young kids I like to have them pick a theme and then I'll come up with decorations, games and food to match it.  And thanks to Pinterest, I don't have to think of all the decorations, games and food myself.  As for the theme, the kids are good at telling me what they like, it's usually a favorite movie or toy.  I love doing this stuff, but with 3 kids celebrating birthdays within 3 weeks, it can get overwhelming.  Luckily I had the perfect solution for my daughter's 12th birthday party and she loved it.

Before I get to that party, I thought I'd share the parties I've done in the past in case you're looking for some ideas.  

Most recently I did a Minion birthday party for my 6 year old daughter.
I've also done the following parties, click on each link to find out the games, food, gifts and activities that went along with each:
American Girl birthday party - one of my most popular posts
Ladybug Picnic party - perfect for the preschool age kids
Surprise party for the kid who hates surprises - a low key party for kids on the autism spectrum

Now onto the easiest party I ever planned.  As the kids get older, you go from inviting everyone in the class, to inviting just their closest friends.  My daughter knew who she wanted to invite, but didn't know what kind of party she wanted.  We've done a variety of things in the past and she didn't want to repeat any of those ideas.  Also she didn't want to do something her friends had already done even though she liked those parties.  Since she only wanted to invite 8 friends, I suggested we do something out of the house, like get manicures, take a pottery or painting class, or go to a movie.  This was a great idea for her since she wouldn't have to worry about her 3 siblings crashing her party at home, and great for me since I wouldn't have to clean my house before and after the party.  

She finally decided on seeing a movie.  The movie STORKS came out the week before so that is what we saw.

After figuring out what it would cost to buy everyone tickets, a drink and some popcorn at the movie theater, then going out for ice cream afterwards, I realized it would be about the same cost if not cheaper to buy the party package from the movie theater.  The party package included movie tickets, a drink and popcorn for up to 10 guests.  Each guest after that was $15 each.  Lucky for me we had exactly 10 people on our guest list (my daughter, 8 friends, and me).  Besides seeing the movie, we got to use their VIP Lounge afterward to have cake and ice cream which was also provided.  I did bring a few other snacks like fruit and cookies so there was plenty of food.  

Behind the eating part of the VIP lounge, was a small theater.  We would have loved to have a private showing of the movie in here, but that wasn't part of the deal.  The girls didn't mind as they had fun playing charades and other games on the stage.

Her birthday was on a Thursday but the movie party was on Friday so we still celebrated her actual birthday with some cupcakes and presents at home.

How do you celebrate birthdays as your kids get older?  I'd love to hear your ideas or link up to your blog post in the comments below.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Decorating Your Home For Fall on the Cheap

With the change of seasons, many people like to change their home decor.  I'm not talking about just bringing out a few seasonal decorations (which is what I usually do), I'm talking about a whole new look to the living room.  Transitioning from a light and airy summer look, to a warm and cozy fall look doesn't have to cost a fortune.  The change can be done by swapping out a few things such as curtains, pillows, throws, and the accent decorations you have on your tables, bookshelves and mantles.  I'm always looking to save money so I try to buy second hand when I can.  Yard sale and thrift stores are great places to find seasonal decor.  

In my area there are 8 thrift stores within about a 30 minute drive from each other.  For all you local folks, here's a link to an article that tells a little about each one HERE. That's a lot of places to find good deals.  Some stores like Goodwill, get new items (usually overstocks) from Target.  You never know what you'll find and just like regular retail shops, they also stock their shelves seasonally and get in new items all the time.

Recently I got two new blackout curtains.  They are the Threshold brand from Target.  They were marked $9.99 each but I got them even cheaper because of a 50% off sale.  Most stores have some sort of sale going on each day.  You just need to check what color tickets are discounted when you walk in and you can score pretty good deals, as if shopping second hand wasn't cheap enough.

I love autumnal colors and a few rooms in my house are decorated in these warm colors already including my bedroom.  I used to have off white curtains in there which matched the bedding but did little to block out the light.  I love these warmer colored curtains and the light blocking feature is amazing.  Now if only I had the time to sleep in.

One of the thrift stores even has a blog you can check out HERE.  It gives ideas about decorating and such.  This cute little wreath would make a great front door decoration for fall.


Besides shopping thrift stores, I love to yard sale.  I found this wreath for FREE last week and hung it up on my wreath hanger outside.  On the other side of the door is a fake pumpkin my mom was getting rid of.  I've had several people think that pumpkin is real and compliment me on my pumpkin carving skills.  

I'm still working on decorating my front porch.  I need to add some mums to those flower pots and then I'll call it done.

Antiques and vintage decor and a nice warm and cozy feel to any home.  If you want to add some antiques into your fall decor, you can find them at thrift stores but you might want to check out antique stores as well.  There are lots of antique stores in Bucks Co. PA and THIS articles lists them all along with other favorite antique shops all over the US and tips for finding antiques in any state.

New Hope, Bucks County. Photo courtesy of Visit Bucks County

I'd love to hear how you find good deals on seasonal decor, just comment below.  I also love to shop after season sales so I can get a jump start on next year's decorations.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Minion Birthday Party

It's been a while since I've blogged so I'll fill you in on what's been happening over the last month.  We went on vacation in August.  Then all the kids got sick, yes all four of them, each with a different aliment.  Luckily (for me) they were all better in time to start school.  Three weeks of school down and we're into a pretty good routine.  The middle school bus comes early which has cut into "me" time in the mornings, making it hard to find time to blog.  

Now that school has started, my focus has turned to birthdays.  We have three kids born within 3 weeks of each other so I've been busy planning parties.  My youngest daughter, who just started kindergarten, turned 6 last week and she had a Minion Birthday party.  Since we didn't know any of the kids in her class, we decided to invite all 20 of them.  

First up are the invitations.  Her favorite minion is "King Bob" so I put him on the front of the invites and had her color him in.  Inside the invitation is the standard party details.  We decided to hold the party at a local park, because 20 kindergartners at my house just wasn't happening.  I also invited the parents to stay so we could get to know each other and make some new friends just like the kids have been doing in school.

As for food, I tried to stick with a blue and yellow theme.  I bought a Mega bag of M&M's and had my daughter separate out all the blue and yellow ones.  The left overs were autumnal colors which would be great for a fall or Halloween party, but I know they won't last that long at our house.  Oh, and I thought Mega just meant the size of the bag, so I was surprised that the M&M's were mega big.  

We added the M&M's to a big bowl of popcorn along with some pretzels for a fun snack.

You know how minions love their bananas, so we had to have those too.  I used a Sharpie marker to draw on some minion faces.

I also had a some minion fruit snacks, along with some healthy food like: crackers, grapes, cherry tomoatoes and carrots.

We had cupcakes rather than cake, and I wanted to make these cute minion cupcakes that I saw on Pinterest, but that ended up being a big ol' Pinterest Fail.  I've never had luck with the gel icing pens so I thought I'd use an edible marker instead.  The twinkies are very sponge-y and didn't take to the marker.  Oh, well, the kids still loved them and even knew they were supposed to be minions.  If you'd like to try your hand at making those cute minion cupcakes, you can follow THIS link.

Decorations and games also included the blue and yellow theme.  The park had a pavillion with four picnic tables, so I set up one table with Legos to "Build a Minion" and crayons to "Color a Minion".  I had yellow tableclothes on each table and some yellow and blue streamers around the supports.  I was pretty busy getting things ready and completely forgot to take a picture of the whole set up.

I also "minion-ized" the corn hole game using yellow and blue paper and black duct tape.  Since the kids were a bit young to understand corn hole, we just used it as a bean bag toss game.

Because it was at a park, the kids could run and play on the playground equipment which meant that I didn't have to plan many games.  There was a basketball court and I brought sidewalk chalk and scooters for the kids to play with too.

Besides wanting a minion party, my daughter specifically requested a pinata.  Luckily Walmart sells minion pinatas so that's what we got.  The thing was jam packed full of candy and the kids loved collecting it as it fell out of it's butt like it was pooping - yeah the kids thought that part was funny - something I didn't think about when I bought it.

What set this whole minion birthday party theme in motion was a "Minion Camp" my daughter went to over the summer.  They made several minion themed crafts and I used some of them as my party decor.

One party down, two more to go.  As the minions would say "Boo Ya!"

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016


As I mentioned in my last post, we went to a Butterfly House and bought a caterpillar habitat so we could watch it transform into a butterfly.  The habitats were $10 and included a monarch caterpillar on a milkweed plant, along with some instructions.  This seemed like a good deal since other caterpillar habitats cost more and you have to send away for the caterpillars.   At least with this one, I know we are starting with a live caterpillar.   I also thought this would be a fun and educational experience for the kids.  We set it up in our playroom and luckily it never got bumped too hard.  I'm happy to report our caterpillar not only survived, but it transformed into a beautiful butterfly and the kids got to witness the process.

So here's what our habitat looked like when we brought it home:

 There's our little caterpillar.  

For a week it was just eating and eating.  The kids could see it getting a little bigger each day and.  Then it hung upside down in this "J" shape for a day.

The next day, it shed it's skin one last time and formed a chrysalis. 

I thought it was interesting that there was some gold on the chrysalis and when I researched it, I could only find out that it has something to do with wing development.

The green chrysalis got more transparent and the day before it emerged, you could see the wings.

Shortly after I took the above picture, the butterfly emerged from the chrysalis.

The wings slowly unfolded.

Since it takes 1-3 hours for the wings to dry, you should release it after that time.  We were going to the movies and I didn't want the butterfly to get caught in the netting so we tried to turn it loose outside after an hour.  The butterfly wasn't ready to fly away and just hung onto the netting.  When we came back from the movies, it was gone.  Later that day, we saw it flying in the back yard.  We haven't seen a monarch butterfly this season in our yard before or after that, so I think we can safely assume the one we saw was ours.

Here the girls are saying good by to "Mona Lisa", the monarch butterfly.

Oh and in case you are wondering how we knew it was a girl (it's all but impossible to tell the sex of a caterpillar), we used this chart.  Our butterfly didn't have a spot on the wing so that made it a female.

Anyone else do the caterpillar habitat thing?  How did it work for you?  I enjoyed checking on the caterpillar everyday and found it interested to watch the metamorphosis.


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