Saturday, April 2, 2016

Final Four Fun!

This weekend we will all be watching the Final Four, which in our neck of the woods might as well be the Super Bowl, so I have shared some of my favorite DIY basketball theme party planning tips on My Carolina Talk! Now watching the Final Four will be even more fun, even for non-basketball fans (not that we know any of those!).

·      Fun with Food
o   Basketball Cookies. If you have a little time and cake decorating gel you can easily make your own basketball cookies! Simply grab your favorite round cookies (vanilla wafers are ideal) and draw a line down the center and semi-circle on each side. You can use the traditional black, white or even your favorite team’s colors. If you are feeling a little more creative, you can also bake cupcakes and decorate them the same way!

o   Cheesy Free Throws. When you are setting your Final Four menu, have some fun with basketball puns! Pick up your favorite cheese balls, which look just like mini basketballs, serve them in individual cups labeled ‘Free Throws’.

·      Simply Free Decorations
o   Center Court Centerpiece.  Creating a Center Court Centerpiece is as easy as repurposing a few items you already have around your house! A vase, basketball net and basketball make the perfect, free, centerpiece for your food table. Just make sure no one is planning to shoot hoops during half time, they may miss the basketball ;-)

TIP: For just a few dollars you can also pick up some basketball plates or a basketball court tablecloth. If you cant find basketball decorations, simply use your favorite teams colors.

·      Creative Koozies
o   Sweatband Drink Wraps. Instead of buying basketball themed koozies, you can save a few dollars and bring back fun memories of your childhood by picking up a few generic sweatbands to use as a koozie alternative. These bands are not only cool and can be worn on your next date night, they are perfect for keeping your hands dry when carrying around a can or bottle.

No matter how much effort you put into watching the Final Four, I hope you enjoy a little Final Four Fun!

For all of my DIY party planning tips pick up a copy of Party Planning Tips for the Clueless Chick and following the Clueless Chick on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time,
aka Chick #1 

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Party Full of Peanuts: National Peanut Month

It is no secret that I LOVE holidays but did you know how much the lesser known holidays? We all know that in March we usually celebrate Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day, but did you know that March is also National Peanut Month?

Fun Fact: According to the National Peanut Board the average American eats over 6 pounds of peanuts each year – 6 pounds! Clearly that is reason for celebration. Just to be clear, I do not recommend that you sit down and eat 6 pounds of peanuts or you’ll turn into a peanut ;-)

So how should you celebrate National Peanut Month? With a Peanut Party of course.

Special Note: Peanut allergies are nothing to mess around with. If you have friends or family with a peanut allergies, be sure to substitute Almond or Sunbutter for any recipe that calls for peanut butter. It is a very simple way to still enjoy your favorite peanut-ish recipes!

When you are prepping your party, or just getting ready to make a PB&J for lunch, don’t forget my favorite peanut butter tip:

A Jar Filled with Love.  Each time you open a new jar of peanut butter, before you take the first scoop of peanut butter fill the jar with love by using your knife to draw a heart in the peanut butter. This is a simple a fun way to put a smile on everyone’s face :-)

A Peanut Party can be as simple as serving PB&Js and buckets of peanuts or you can have a little more fun with it.

Mini PB&Js
If there is one MUST have at your Peanut party, it is the PB&J. You can keep it simple and make your favorite childhood PB&Js or have a little fun with it (you know how much I like a twist on the traditional!). You will definitely want to make your PB&Js appetizer size so that your guests can enjoy all of your treats. Here are a few fun options for your Mini PB&Js:
  • Use a mini loaf of bread or baguette slices
  • Make traditional PB&Js and use a cookie cutter to turn them into fun shapes
  • Ladyfinger cookies as bread for extra sweet PB&Js
  • Add a few strawberry slices to your traditional PB&J and cut them into fourths
  • Instead of bread use hot dog buns to make sub sandwich style PB&Js

Pail of Peanuts
What could be better than a bucket full of peanuts at your Peanut Party? Nothing! A small galvanized bucket, glass vase or flower pot make for fun centerpieces for the buffet or coffee table. Don’t worry; there is no shame in serving the lazy man’s shelled peanut especially if your worried about the mess peanut shells may make. 
TIP:  If you are serving your bucket of peanuts inside be sure to use a tablecloth, and a drop cloth to make cleanup a breeze.

PB&J Thumbprint Cookies
A fun and easy way to put a spin on your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe is to add a jelly twist.  Simply skip the step to make cross marks on your peanut butter cookies, take them out of the oven half way through the baking cycle, make a small indentation in the center of the cookie using your clean thumb or the back of a measuring spoon and pop them back in the oven. Once the cookies are fully baked, remove them from the oven and drop a dollop of your favorite jelly in the center.
TIP: A fun way to serve your PB&J Thumbprint Cookies is on top of a small glass of milk! Plastic shot glasses or champagne flutes work best and look the cutest.

Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
If you ask me, the worlds most perfect food combination is chocolate and peanut putter, period. So why not add peanut butter to your favorite brownies? All you need is your favorite brownie mix, ½ cup of chocolate chips and a few dollops of peanut butter and you’ve got yourself Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies.  Prepare brownie mix as directed, add chocolate chips, pour into a pan, drop on a few dollops of peanut butter on top and cut in with a knife in a zigzag pattern to make a marbled effect. Bake as directed, cool, cut with a plastic knife and try not to eat the entire pan in one sitting, unless it is a brownie emergency.

Nutty Mix Bar
A fun and interactive attraction at your Peanut Party is a Nutty Mix Bar where guest can make their own peanut trail mix. All you need are a few bowl or fun food safe containers for your mix ins and cups or small bags and your imagination is your only limit (well, that and your budget – some nuts can be pricey). Here are some of my favorite mix in ideas:
  • Peanuts (duh!) and any other nut your love
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Peanut Butter Chips
  • Peanut or Chocolate Flavored Cereal
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Raisins
  • Dried Banana Chips
  • Pretzels
  • Grape or Strawberry flavored Jelly Beans
  • Mini Marshmallows

TIP: Your favorite Nutty Mix also makes the perfect party! Simply mix a big batch and pour it into small bags or cute takeout boxes.

My favorite part of planning such a fun and silly themed party is that your imagination is your only limit!

Until next time,
aka Chick #1 

Monday, January 4, 2016

How to Create Your Own Family Rules

Hello 2016! I hope you had a wonderfully relaxing holiday season. Mine was filled with loads of family time, cooking, shopping, cleaning, crafting and maybe a little binge watching of my new favorite tv shows :-)

I am not usually one for new years resolutions, I like to sprinkle in resolutions throughout the year. One thing I am a fan of is starting off the year with a clean slate and clear expectations. This is where you can really see my work life creeping into our home. At the same time I am finishing performance reviews at work, I am thinking about how we as parents can continue to develop and encourage our boys. Like many of you, we have found (through lot of trial and error…) that setting expectations with our boys is extremely effective. And what is even more effective than setting expectations? Creating those expectations with the boys :-)

Over the years I have seen a lot of very cute and very creative Family Rules that I almost purchased expect there was always a statement or two that didn’t apply to our family, or a few which were missing. So, I decided we would make our own and boy did we have fun!

Check out the LIVE instructions on My Carolina Today!

Proposed Family Rules printed on strips of paper
Blank paper for writing new Family Rules
Picture frame

  1. Make a list of your proposed Family Rules
    • I found it easiest to print the list in three columns on a piece of paper, widely spaced, and cut out each word.
  2.  Prepare scrap paper for the new Family Rules you come up with during the process
  3. Gather the kids around the table to talk about why family rules are important and how each family is unique so you will be creating your very own unique family rules
  4. Talk through each of the proposed Family Rules, making piles of your favorites, maybes and not applicable
    • The most interesting pile for us was the ‘maybe’ pile because it generated the most conversation. It was also adorable to listen to all the examples the boys came up with for each rule.
  5. Brainstorm other Family Rules ides. It is particularly sweet to watch the kids write the new rules themselves.
    • My favorite new rule was when my youngest, then 4, shouted “Turning off the lights! Mama, we need a rule about turning off the lights when you leave your room and not leaving the water on!” And then our ‘Be Green’ rule was born :-)
  6. Make your final decision about which Family Rules are most important to everyone and have a discussion about why every rule is important to each member of the family.
  7. Get creative! You can keep your Family Rules as simple or ornate as you like. I used nothing more than different font in text boxes in a Word document. Once complete, I converted the document to a .jpg and uploaded it to my favorite photo site to be printed as an 11x17 photo. If you would like to keep it simple, you can print your family rules at home.
  8. When your print is ready, frame it and hang it on the wall for everyone to see.

Don’t forget, this project is only as complicated as you make it. We honestly had a blast going through this process and the conversations were priceless.

One of the most valuable parts of this family craft was the opportunity to talk about family rules and being accountable to each other and ourselves. My boys were just 4 and 6 years old at the time so the conversation about having good behavior and always being kind was heartwarming.

Does that mean we’ve never had a rule or two broken? No, of course not, we are all human. But it does give us something to point to when we are having a conversation about why a certain behavior was unacceptable.

So set aside some family time, an hour after dinner will do, and create your own Family Rules! If you would like a jump-start on your project, feel free to copy our rules :-)

Happy crafting!

Until next time,
aka Chick #1

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years Eve with Kids

It’s New Years Eve and you’ve been hoping to spend the night at your favorite party, but it turns out life has other plans for you. If your baby sitter canceled on you at the last minute, or one of the kids got sick, don’t worry, I can show you how fun being stuck at home with the kids on New Years Eve can be.

DIY New Years Craft
·      DIY Sparkler Rings: Making a fun and easy craft is a great way to pass the hours with your kids on New Years Eve and these DIY Sparkler Rings just perfect. All you need are pipe cleaners (preferably sparkly) and a pair of scissors. To make the ring, cut 3 pipe cleaners in half and set 1 piece aside. Fold the remaining 5 pieces in half, forming a loop at the bend large enough for a child’s finger and wrap the remaining piece just above the loop to form the ring. Then, bend back each end of the pipe cleaners to form the design of a sparkler. These rings are so easy and fun you’ll be making them in every color for every holiday.

·      DIY Noise Makers:  You don’t have to spend a fortune on throwaway noisemakers this New Years, all you need are plastic containers and dry beans.  Here I’ve used old drink bottles that have been washed and dried then filled with dry beans.  To add a little decoration, I covered the bottles with black cardstock and added bright white ‘2016’ stickers.  Kids and adults alike will love using these simple shakers to make a little noise on New Years.

Wishes for the New Year
·      New Years Wishes Ball: A fun way to teach your kids about positive thinking and planning for the future is to make New Years Whishes Balls on New Years Eve. All you need are clear glass (or plastic) ornaments, paper cut into ~3”x1” strips, and a pen. You will use the paper and pen to write down your wishes for the coming year, then roll up each strip of paper and stuff them into your clear glass ornament. As the year progresses you can review your wishes or keep them a secret until it is time to make your New Years Wishes Ball next year.

Midnight Toast
·      Milk & Cookies: For New Years Eve with the Kids, you are probably planning to ring in the new year at 8 or even 10pm, and doing so with a kiddo friendly toast is simply perfect. Pick up a set of plastic champagne glasses from the party store, fill them with milk and top each glass with a cookie. Can you imagine a better way to ring in the new year than with milk and cookies?

Whether your night at home with the kids was planned or is happening by chance, you are going to have a fabulous time, Happy New Years!

For all of my tips pick up your own copy Party Planning Tips for the Clueless Chick books and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time,
aka Chick #1

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Make Your Holiday Party Stand Out

One of the best things about this time of year is all of the holiday parties. Whether you are planning a large party or just having a few friends over, there are very easy ways to add your personal style to your party. Today on My Carolina Today I shared my favorite tips for making your holiday party stand out from the rest.

Make Your Mark
·      Decorative Glass Markers: Let’s be honest, you’re sick of using the same old wine glass markers and the thought of spending $20-50 on a new set is just irritating. Here’s an idea – why not repurpose holiday window clings?  Those gel window clings you see at the store for $1-2 make the perfect stay-put wine glass marker and for just a few bucks you can buy more than you’ll ever need.  You can have fun by decorating each glass before guests arrive, or let them get creative and pick their own designs.

Fun with Food
·      Snowballs: When you are setting your party menu, choose foods that you can have fun with. Powdered doughnut holes make the perfect Snowballs for any winter party and can be served on a plate, bowl or even a cute vase. You can add an extra special twist to your glasses by putting a doughnut hole on each straw. Your imagination is your only limit.

Grab and Go
·      Shrimp Cocktail Shots: Shrimp Cocktail is an easy crowd pleaser at any party, but how boring is a plain plate of shrimp?! Why not create individual Shrimp Cocktail Shots? All you need are plastic shot glasses with a dab of cocktail sauce in each and a shrimp on top. Not only are these absolutely adorable, they are an ideal snack for mingling because your guest can grab a glass and go.  

·      Hot Cocoa Kit: To make your holiday party unforgettable, never send your guests home empty handed. A small favor or a Grownup Hot Cocoa Kit are easy ways to thank your guests for coming. The Hot Cocoa Kit is made up of a small mason jar, cocoa mix, mini marshmallows and a mini bottle of Irish Cream. Simply add the cocoa mix to the mason jar, top it with marshmallows and tie on a bottle of Bailey’s. Your guest will be reminiscing about your party the next night over their hot cocoa.

Whether you go all out or include one small personal touch, make your party your own. A personalized party will mean more to you and your guests. Happy Holidays!

For all of my tips pick up your own copy Party Planning Tips for the Clueless Chick books and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time,
aka Chick #1