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September 1, 2014

Daniel Tiger Birthday Party

A little less than 4 months from now my sweet girl will turn 3! That means it's time to start thinking about her 3rd birthday party. I have asked her what kind of party she would like. Her answer: "A pink one". Hmmm. Even though her favorite color is now apparently purple, she wants a pink birthday party and that is the only request she has. We'll see what happens, haha!

I like to give her birthday parties, especially since her birthday is 2 days after Christmas, which means it could potentially get lost in the holiday shuffle. I want to make sure we celebrate her in the midst of all the other celebrations. Last year she got a Daniel Tiger birthday party, and honestly she'd probably love that again.  But I want to think of a new birthday party idea for this year. In the meantime, check out what I did for her last party and feel free to use any of the ideas for your own party!

I made the birthday invitation with free digital paper here and made sure to include some of Daniel's best catch phrases. I always just e-mail her invitations; so much cheaper and easier!

So if your kids watch Daniel Tiger, you probably know the episode where Daniel's mom gets mad because Daniel and Prince Wednesday bring sand in the house to make a beach. They decide instead to make a pretend inside beach and use blankets as sand and water. Jael LOVES that, so I surprised her by setting up her own birthday inside beach, complete with a blow up palm tree (leftover from college, haha). 
The birthday girl quietly playing on her inside beach, pretending to scoop sand in her buckets. 
For a party activity, we set out coloring sheets since coloring is still a favorite around here. PBS has some great ones for free here. We found sheets for each character, plus some with the characters in the trolley and everyone had fun coloring them.

Instead of cake, we did cupcakes again, just like her Sesame Street first birthday party. We just did Daniel face cupcakes. The ears are mini Nilla wafers, the eyes are Wilton eye candy pieces and the rest is just icing. I actually thought these were harder than the Sesame Street cupcakes because of the detailed parts that had to be done with the icing. But my little love was so excited when she saw them so that's all that matters!

We had pizza, opened gifts in the beach chair in her pretend inside beach, ran around and played with balloons for awhile and then called it a night. It was super simple, but with a few special touches, very special birthday party.

Any ideas for what I should do for her 3rd birthday?? Honestly, she'd probably like another Daniel Tiger party, as we still watch the show all the time! And she got to meet Daniel Tiger at the White House Easter Egg Roll this spring. But I think I'll try to think of something else new and exciting for her this year. :)

Meeting Daniel Tiger at the White House!

June 12, 2014

DIY Bridal Shower

One of my younger sisters got married in May, and I had the privilege of organizing a SURPRISE bridal shower for her! (I was so thrilled that we pulled off the surprise!) I love planning parties! You can see my posts about my daughter's first birthday party here (and I will soon be posting about her second birthday party so stay tuned!).

For this party we rented out a back room in a local coffee shop that I know my sister enjoyed visiting. It ended up being incredibly affordable and was the perfect space for what we needed. I enlisted some family to help put the food together and it was all incredibly delicious.

Behind the food table was the Cupcake Bar we created so that everyone could decorate their own cupcakes with an assortment of sprinkles and candies.

I used cupcake wrappers to hold the toppings.
I was quite proud of the bunting banners I made to decorate the party. I spent hours cutting out pretty paper in the shape of triangles and stringing them onto pretty string. Below are a few close ups of the longest strand. Long strands are much more difficult to string than shorter ones, but I knew we had a long space to fill so I went for it.

I made a template and then used scrapbook paper in coordinating colors to cut out the triangles. I used a paper piercer to poke holes in the corners for the string. It made less of an impact and was less visible than using a hole punch. Then I strung the triangles onto green and white striped string that I found at Michaels in the dollar bin. I've also seen similar string, which seems to be popular now, at the Target One Spot.

I used single-sided paper because I knew it was going against the wall. If you need to string a bunting through a room I would recommend double sided paper. I got a lot of compliments on the banner and was told that the triangles were the perfect size, so I wanted to provide a template for anyone else who wants to try making their own! Follow the link below the photo to download the simple template. Print it and cut it out, then use it to trace onto your choice of paper. If you use 12 x 12 scrapbook paper, you should be able to line the triangles up in such a way that you can get 3 triangles out of one sheet of paper.

Click here to download this printable bunting banner template!

Another super fun thing we did at the bridal shower was a photo "booth" complete with props. I hung a shorter strand of bunting across an area designated for photos and gathered a bunch of things to use as props like a giant frame, lots of colorful beads and funny sunglasses. I also made paper props on sticks which are super fun and silly!

The coffee shop had built in shelves perfect for displaying all the fun photo booth props!
I found 12 pages of prop templates from Kensie Kate. Go here to download the template to make your own! The template includes a huge assortment of lips, mustaches, hats, etc. I didn't use all of them, just a small selection that I thought worked for our party theme.

Here are some of them closeup, before I added the sticks.
I cut the props out of scrapbooking cardstock that had a bit of texture to it. It gave them a little bit more depth. You can see in the photo that I also added some bling to some of them. I added rhinestones on the hat, silver studs on some of the glasses, and some of the props were cut out of glitter paper just for that extra little special detail. I hot glued them to wooden skewers and they were a big hit!

My mom and me having fun with the props at the party
We just played one game during the party, bridal shower bingo. This is the game where you have guests fill in a bingo card with presents you think the bride will receive and then mark off the ones you guessed right as she opens her gifts. First to bingo gets a prize! I used this template, but there are lots on the world wide web to choose from!

The party was a great success, from surprising the bride, to all the food and fun, finished off with awesome gifts to help the bride start her new life with her new husband! How about you, what are your best bridal shower ideas? Will you use any of the ideas or templates featured here for your own party? Comment below and let me know!

January 9, 2014

Moving Tips From A Self-Proclaimed Expert

That's right, I do consider myself an expert on moving! My family moved a lot when I was a kid. I'm not even sure how many times we moved, but I'm pretty sure it's more than 20. As an adult, through college and after getting married I still can't seem to stay put. As I've mentioned, my husband is in the Air Force. We have moved 3 times in the last 4 years. Yes, we are crazy.

Is this a familiar sight to anyone else? A room
full of boxes and disassembled furniture. 
This last move we made from FL to DC I did a lot of searching for tips and tricks to make moving go smoothly. We had more stuff to move than we've ever had before, plus a dog, a rabbit and a kid! If you Google "moving tips", like I did, you'll find so much valuable info that you can apply to your situation. I'm going to add my tips to the pot and hopefully they'll help someone!

Before You Pack

* Go through your things and sell, give away or throw out anything you can.

Your move, and especially unpacking and moving into your new place, will go so much smoother if you pare down what you have first. I recommend doing this several months before your moving date, if you have that much notice. Have a yard sale, list things on Craigslist or Facebook yard sale groups, donate to Goodwill or give things away to friends. If it's not of value to anyone else and you haven't used it in awhile, don't be afraid to throw it away!

Something I tried that worked really well was to go through each area of my house, room by room, closet by closet, and sort everything into piles of things to sell, trash and give away. Things that were going to be kept and moved with us got put away properly, which leads me to the next tip:

* Organize everything before packing

Our linen closet never looked as good as it did just
before our move! Organizing and folding all our blankets
and towels made it easier to pack them up. 
Take some time in the months and weeks before your move to organize your house. Put things back in their homes, or find a place for things that have just been laying around. For example, we had a bunch of baby stuff we were no longer using in various closets and in our daughter's bedroom. We put it all in one place neat and organized so it could all stay together for packing. Organizing your home will make it that much easier to pack up.

* Take an inventory

This tip is especially popular in the military community, where the majority of the time, movers are packing and transporting your "household goods" for you. But it's a good idea for anyone. I'll admit, we didn't do this! But I wanted to and should have. You can get as detailed as logging every last DVD and china plate to just going around your home with a video camera, detailing everything you see. One thing we did do was take photos of our television showing that they worked prior to moving. Then if it's broken on the other side you can prove it happened during the move.

* Do everything you love one last time

If you are moving far - out of state, out of the country - make sure to take time in all the moving madness to see all your friends, visit your favorite restaurants and do all your favorite fun things. Making new memories of all the things we loved really helped me get some closure and also have a good time in the midst of all the stress.

Our last (for awhile) pizza at our favorite pizza place in
Tampa, Precinct Pizza
We got family photos taken in Tampa to remember how special it was to us.
(Photo credit: Kalyn Brown Photography)

* Buy several boxes of the GIANT sized zip top bags and use them for EVERYTHING

I'm talking about the jumbo bags; I think Hefty brand sells them, that's what I used. They were super helpful in organizing my kitchen! I bagged all of my spices in these babies. I emptied my crock of wooden spoons and spatulas into one. My baking flour and sugar got wrapped up and zipped securely in a jumbo-sized bag as well. Seriously, these things were life savers.

Jumbo sized Hefty bags keep all your kitchen gadgets organized
I bagged my whole silverware tray. The silverware didn't all
stay in the right places, but at least it wasn't spilled all over
a box! Another idea is to wrap your silverware tray with
plastic wrap to avoid spilling even more. 
These were also amazing for organizing and packing my craft supplies. I just had this nightmarish vision in my head of the movers packing my craft supplies and on the other end opening boxes full of crumpled scrapbook paper and beads spilled everywhere. I used the jumbo bags to hold scrapbook paper and embellishments, another for my cross stitch projects, another for yarn, one for my pile of Gasparilla (Mardi Gras) beads, and one for my massive sea shell collection.

When you unpack, just empty the bags into their new homes and you're set! No searching for missing pieces to a set or digging through packing materials for small things that may have come unwrapped during the move. Some of my bagged items even stayed in their bags! It has made me more organized even after we are all unpacked and moved in.

Also on the topic of craft supplies, I highly recommend the clear plastic storage boxes that fit 12 x 12 craft supplies. These just stacked up nicely in boxes and all my paper and projects stayed nice and flat.

My craft desk all boxed and bagged up. 
A word of caution: if you don't organize and pack up your things, especially small things, effectively, you end up with something that looks like this:

Random crap wrapped up in packing paper. I missed a
spot when organizing and so this is what I got.
* Pack all your photo frames and decorations together

I recommend taking down all the photos and decorations from the walls a day or two prior to moving day and stacking them all carefully in one place so that they can be packed together. For example, if you leave the photos that are in your bedroom in there, they may end up being packed in with all your other bedroom stuff and maybe not being as secure. Pack them all together carefully, or if you have movers, make sure they pack them in appropriate packaging so they don't get broken and label the whole box as fragile.

Packing all your decorations together also allows you to unpack all the important stuff for living first, then when all that is out of the way, unpack your decorations boxes and find them all wall space in your new home. Doing this has helped me be able to quickly make new houses look like home.

* Pack an "open first" box

Make the last box you close up an "open first" box full of everything you will need right away when you unpack in your new place. Don't waste time hunting through poorly labeled boxes for things like tools and parts needed to put together your beds! Things we put in our open first box included parts and screws (in plastic baggies) for furniture that would need to be re-assembled, a few rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates and plastic cups, scissors, clean sheets and blankets to go right on our beds, and furniture sliders for moving furniture around easily. Anything we needed right away was in that box and it was so helpful!

* Pack suitcases tightly

Especially if you'll be flying, pack your suitcases full and tightly with your clothes and toiletries so that things don't shift around and become a mess for you on the other end.

Unpacking And Moving In

* Unpack quickly and get settled in

My handsome husband unpacking dishes in a sea of
packing paper.
I can't recommend enough that you unpack quickly and get settled in. For military families, we usually don't have time to wait and unpack slowly. Many military families know how to make a house a home very quickly. Take the time necessary and unpack everything, starting with the things you need first. If you have pared down your belongings ahead of time, there shouldn't be boxes full of random stuff stowed in closets for years.

I also recommend making your new place home as soon as possible. We painted, hung curtains and photos and got rid of all the boxes in the first few months after moving here to DC. It has really helped us feel settled in. Now we're working on getting out there and meeting new people and making new friends and new memories in our new home!

* Have fun!

Moving is very stressful, even for crazy people like me who enjoy it. Take time, even while you're unpacking like mad, to go out and do something new and fun at your new destination. Check out a few highly rated restaurants in the area, go see a fun new attraction, or just take a drive around the area. Start making new memories right away and your new town (or state or country) will feel like home in no time.

You can even have fun with your moving boxes! Build the kids a fort, a race car or a play house. Or do like my family did and use them as your Halloween costume. We moved in October and didn't have time to find awesome costumes for trick or treating, so we dressed up as a family who just moved! We went out wrapped in packing paper and tape, with boxes stuck on/to us, and covered in those moving stickers stuck to everything when you have movers pack your stuff. It was fun and got laughs out of the understanding military community.

Here's a summary of my best tips for moving:

* Go through your things and sell, give away or throw out anything you can.
* Organize everything before packing
* Take an inventory
* Do everything you love one last time
* Buy several boxes of the GIANT sized zip top bags and use them for EVERYTHING
* Pack all your photo frames and decorations together
* Pack an "open first" box
* Pack suitcases tightly
* Unpack quickly and get settled in
* Have fun!

Hopefully these tips help you have a smooth move and get settled quickly. What are your best tips for a smooth move? Share them in the comments and help us have an even smoother move next time, hopefully not for a few more years. :)

October 20, 2013

Well Read

Hello from Washington, DC! We made it and so did all of our "stuff". I've been super busy with unpacking and getting our new home in order. One of the first things I unpacked was the fall welcome sign for our front door. Little seasonal touches make it feel a lot more like home!

The festive front door of our new home in Washington, DC
I am working on a moving post, with moving tips and tricks I've learned along the way. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few blogs I personally read regularly. 

The Evolution of Mom blog is written by a fellow military spouse I met when we were both living in Virginia (about 3 moves ago) and another Rachel who is not me. (Sometimes when she e-mails me I get confused because her e-mail comes up as Rachel N and my middle initial is N and I'm wondering why I e-mailed myself.) They write topics about real life and real life parenting. Plus they do lots of giveaways, which I am a huge fan of! They have a giveaway going on right now and you can win an iPad!

Another blog I've been following lately is Sally's Baking Addiction. I'm not sure how I found this blog but she posts some amazing recipes! I'm especially excited to try some of her peanut butter recipes. She has a cookbook coming out soon which is awesome and I know what I want for Christmas!

And of course, my sister's art blog, Multicolored Veins. Hannah does giveaways often too, and I just won one recently!! (I know, I know, she's my sister, but she chooses winners at random so I won fair and square!) 

So now you have three new blogs to check out, and plenty of reading until I post my (hopefully) super helpful moving tips! :D What's your favorite blog? Leave a link in the comments so I can check it out too!

Until next time,


September 22, 2013

What's New

Hello, poor, neglected blog! Someday I'll get better at blogging. But I'm so overwhelmed that my blog has had over 32,000 views!! Most of them have come from my tutorial on how to make a gift bag out of a catalog or magazine, and I'm so glad so many people have been able to use that info and even make it their own. A lot of people have also found my Sesame Street birthday party post on Pinterest. I hope to be able to provide more helpful and fun posts in the future (to include the next birthday party for my little love, which I plan to make just as awesome as the first!)! But for today, I have an announcement to make.

If you are a fan of my Etsy shop on Facebook, at, then you may have already heard that my family is moving, and that means the shop is moving too. As I mentioned in my bio, my husband is active duty Air Force so moving was always in our future. It's bittersweet, as we love Tampa, Florida, but we're excited to get to experience Washington, DC as well. Not that it affects this blog so much, as we can always connect here! But it's worth mentioning that Sparkle & Pop won't have much going on for awhile, and in fact is currently closed. I've had to pack up all my craft supplies so I won't be able to re-open until we get settled and unpacked in our new home.

Craft desk all packed up and ready to be moved
So the military does move our belongings for us, and we even have our things packed up for us, so that takes a lot of the work out of it. However, if we want things to show up at our new home in an organized fashion, there is some work we do on our end. Personally, I've become a major fan of plastic zip top bags! I have bagged up all my supplies so that they don't just get all jumbled up in boxes. I plan to post some moving tips here once we get settled and we see if my bright ideas actually help. :)

Well the movers are coming in this week, so until we get settled in our new home, you can connect with me on Facebook, I will post updates about our move and about the shop status. You can also follow me on Instagram.

Thanks again to all the visitors to my blog, and I hope you'll come back and visit me again. :)

<3 Rachel

July 14, 2013

Sparkle & Pop Giveaway!

It's been a good week for Sparkle & Pop, my Etsy shop, which you can visit at I had a custom order which turned out great, and finally hit 100 "likes" on my Facebook page! To celebrate, I'm giving away two glitter votive candles! These are the same candles you can find in my shop.

Enter to win these!
To enter the giveaway, just go to the Sparkle & Pop Facebook page and enter using the purple Giveaway button at the top. Make sure you like my page before you enter. Thanks and good luck!

June 27, 2013

Sesame Street Birthday Party

Today my sweet little girl is 18 months old! It's her half birthday! I never did share her magnificent first birthday party so I thought today would be the perfect day to do so. Her birthday party was a ton of fun, and both the kids and adults who were there loved it! A first birthday party is as much a celebration  for the parents (we made it a year and everyone is still alive!) as it is for the little one. I had a blast creating this fun party!

My daughter loves Sesame Street so it was an easy choice for her first birthday party theme. I searched every corner of the internet for Sesame Street birthday party ideas, and there were TONS out there!! But what I noticed was that a lot of the ideas out there were from fancy people who could afford to outsource every last piece of the party. I'm talking they hired someone to make the invitations, someone else to bring in a candy table, another person for catering, etc etc. So I gathered a few ideas, tightened my belt a little, and set about to make our party a total DIY affair. Hopefully these ideas will help others as they scour the internet for Sesame Street themes they can do themselves.

To start with, I created my own invitation, and honestly, I just did it in Word. No joke. I sent it via e-mail because stamps are expensive and it would get thrown away eventually anyway. BUT I am a big proponent for buying handmade, so if you can't make it yourself or don't want to, check out Etsy for lots of invitations you can buy.

I created the invite in Word, including the striped background.
A lot of the planning and creating was done in advance so that we could just enjoy the party and our daughter's birthday. I think goodie bags are optional, but I wanted to make them because I was just going all out with this Sesame Street theme and had too many extra ideas. All my leftover ideas got thrown into goodie bags :P

I kept the theme and created tags and labels with the same background as the invitation. If you know much about Sesame Street, these favors will make more sense to you. 
Included in the goodie bags were goldfish crackers (stored in a clean baby food container, way to up-cycle!), crayons, bubbles, candy necklaces, a rubber ducky and a couple extra balloons. Most of the things came in party favor packs so they were pretty inexpensive.

I also decorated in advance. It made it especially nice because the birthday party was two days after my daughter's actual birthday, so I was able to decorate so her birthday was special and then leave it up until the party. I blew up balloons and let them cover the living room floor so that she could play with them. She had a blast and the other kids who came to her party enjoyed it too! Helium might be fun and look good, but hot air is free and makes the balloons more accessible for little kids to play with.

I can't take credit for the "Happy Birthday" banner; it's from Target and it's fantastic. I did hang the streamers and create the signs. The picture frames are just the simple ones from Target, and I used them for regular photos after the party.

I did make the famed Sesame Street cupcakes. I had never even made cupcakes before *gasp* let alone decorated them. I don't like cake so I don't make it very often. But I found a bunch of ideas on the interwebs, and this video was quite helpful as well. Then I just added my own personal touch. I think they turned out quite well. Except Abby Cadabby. She's quite scary. I won't give you a close up because you might be scared. :P

Elmo, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch and Grover cupcakes. I'm especially proud of Cookie Monster and Oscar!

I made these the night before and covered them. That gave the icing time to set and freed up my morning to do the rest of the preparations. In case you would like to re-create these in the same way I have, I'll list some of the ingredients. I used the spray can icing and candy melt wafer eyes, just like she did in the video. The mouths are Oreo cookie halves, cut carefully with a serrated knife. Except Cookie Monster, who has a Chips Ahoy cookie in his mouth. I did serve the leftovers of these at the party so none went to waste. Elmo's nose is a peanut M&M and Grover's nose is a gum ball. Oscar's eyebrows are pink icing (used from Abby Cadabby cupcakes) mixed with a little chocolate syrup. I hope that helps!

Here they are all lined up and ready to be eaten! See, I told you Abby Cadabby is scary! To be fair, she is really hard!
I wanted my daughter to have a fun first cake experience, but I am not a fan of the huge "smash cake" for kids. Too much cake gets wasted when the kid (hopefully) doesn't eat it all. I made her her own little cupcake with considerably less icing than the characters. She loved it and I got video of her eating it so I am a happy mama!

The actual birthday party was only a few hours long because little ones get tired and need naps. She only had two other child guests, the rest were family and friends who came to celebrate her with us. When the guests first arrived they all got a party hat. These were from Target and just happened to match the striped designs I had already created. Then I printed and cut out the Sesame Street characters and stuck them on. Voila!

Easy DIY Sesame Street party hats, and they cost less than the licensed ones you can buy in the store.
We all stayed in the living room and played with the balloons on the floor. I checked out a Sesame Street DVD from the library that was all about birthday parties and we watched that and colored as well. I downloaded free printable coloring pages from, which has a ton of other resources as well.

Yes, this stuff was all over the floor in no time, but everyone had so much fun, it was worth it!
After the Sesame Street DVD was over (it was only about 45 minutes long) and everyone had their fill of coloring and balloons, we moved into the dining room for snacks. Of course, I did themed snacks too, and tried to have a good variety of things that the little ones could eat as well as things the adults could enjoy. And candy. Every birthday party needs candy.

The food table before the party
Some of the food items had the plush Sesame Street character next to it. 
In the interest of making sure this post is not a mile long, I've grouped all my photos together in collages. I hope you can see them ok. I made a tag for each food item so that guests not as familiar with the show would know why I was serving it and which character it was associated with. (Overkill? Oh well)  Included in my Sesame Street themed food were "Oscar's friend Slimy and friends in the mud" (brownies), Cookie Monster's cookies, Telly's cheese triangles, Dorothy's goldfish, and Big Bird's chocolate covered birdseed. If you've never tried chocolate covered sunflower seeds you really should. I couldn't find any locally so I ordered off Amazon. Also pictured are the "singing vegetables" which I just added candy eyes and chocolate icing smiles to veggies I was going to cook later. There was also Abby Cadabby's magical pink punch and Elmo's favorite food, pizza (well, bagel bites). The picture at the top of the collage, Elmo and Jelly Bean, was done by my sister. She takes commissions, if you are interested in custom art. You can find her here:

We also had a dress up photo booth type thing at the party. I made Sesame Street themed accessories to dress up with. There was a Grover cape and helmet (helmet bought off of Amazon) and a Big Bird feather boa and feather mask. I printed out giant pictures of Elmo, Oscar and Cookie Monster's faces to use as masks. I also made Abby Cadabby and Zoe hair and found cute little skirts that managed to be literally one size fits all at the Target dollar spot. Everyone had a blast taking pictures.

My cute little family in Sesame Street costumes
Using accessories and making most of them by hand made it cheaper than getting full costumes, and then everyone could participate because they are one size fits all! I kept all of it so that when she gets into dress up she will have them to play with. I plan to make the Abby Cadabby hair and wands to sell on my Etsy shop, Sparkle & Pop, so keep an eye out around Halloween time.

After we were all done taking fun pictures in costume, we went back in for cupcakes and presents. It was such a wonderful party and our daughter was smiling and laughing the whole time! I will cherish these memories and I hope that some of this is helpful to you so you can make some awesome memories too. If you have any questions on any of the elements or want more direction for recreating some of it, leave me a comment and I'll try to help. :)

In conclusion, here is a picture of my dog in a party hat.

Don't forget to check out my Etsy shop, Sparkle & Pop and like me on Facebook for more fun stuff!

~ Rachel