15 December, 2014  |   2 Comments

Dorothy’s Fifth Birthday Party – The Villains Party

Dorothy has never been much for big parties, so when she told me she wanted a Villains Party for her fifth birthday, I was eager to help. So was her Auntie.

Auntafee dressed the part

Dorothy dressed as Maleficent for Halloween this year. We’re learning that she is the kind of person interested in our dark sides. She is interested in every side.

The royal family says, "Hey." Thanks to @kerrygirvs for the pics!

I tried to work off of a Pinterest board of Villains party ideas but we just couldn’t seem to find all the elements that would make our Villains party right for us.

Grownups snacking and watching

It is a testimony to the adaptability of our species that this lack of a complete and total party template annoyed me.

Ha!

For crying out loud, I didn’t even USE Pinterest two years ago! Now I can’t make dinner without it!

Dorothy will own all the balloons

All this just meant was that we just had to come up with some simple ideas that worked for us.

Dorothy's Villainous Birthday Party Plan

On the menu:
Poisoned Apple Slices with Antidote Dip
Have you ever whipped together 1 package cream cheese with 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup brown sugar? It’s the perfect antidote for poisoned apple slices. The kids and grown-ups couldn’t get enough.

The kids also were grossed out by the green and brown goo (guacamole and hummus). Tortilla chips and veggies rounded out the menu.

Dorothy isn't sure who is eviller, Maleficent or Dorothy?

Dorothy’s cake was made by our friends from Model Bakery — the flavors were mint and chocolate and even us cake-haters couldn’t get enough.

Dorothy will own all the balloons

For the decor:
Balloons, and lots of them.
We busted our budget on balloons this year, and it was a great investment. Kids really don’t care about activities as long as there are balloons to push to the breaking point.

Dorothy will own all the balloons

We hung the bunting I made for Halloween a few years ago. Three cheers for reusable decor!

I also cut some mirror mirror frames out of foam core — the kids played with those on their own and there we had an impromptu photo booth!

Dorothy will own all the balloons

We rented a room from our city’s rec department. At $50, it was a great investment. The kids had lots of space to run around and I wasn’t chasing kids away from holiday decorations. I’d encourage you to find out if your city’s rec department has spaces available to rent.

(Since our annual holiday cocktail party was right before Dorothy’s birthday party, let’s also say our house wasn’t yet in good condition for a five year old’s birthday party. Grin.)

Auntafee and Pops

For the activities:
On my to-do list for the three weeks running up to the party I had written, “Invent Villains Games.” I just never seemed to be able to think of anything — Duck, Duck THIEF?! Capture the jewel? We’d invited them to dress up as villains, but I was stuck on an activity.

Then I talked to mom. She told me that if I threw the kids in a room with some balloons and room to run around, they’d be fine.
(Mom was right. She always is.)

Bad Guy Coloring Pages
When the kids showed up, we had a table covered with some bad guy coloring pages and crayons.That kept the monkeys focused as well as provided a space to get some quiet time when running around got a little too hectic.

Dorothy will own all the balloons

Goodie Bags
In the bag we put these sticky, slappy hands (perfect for snatching), an evil plan notebook with erasable evil plan pen, some Pirate’s Booty and Monsters Inc gummies. The slappy hands became the party’s most fun activity.

Three cheers for not coming up with an elaborate game!
Dorothy's villainous goodie bag held a sticky hand, a notebook, a pen and some Pirates Booty

Happy fifth birthday Dorothy. You continue to surprise us.

Happy birthday Dorothy!

21 November, 2014  |   15 Comments

Didn’t see THAT coming…

This week, a dear friend wrote a blog post about a book I’d bought on sale. The post went viral. I have taken great lengths to duck out of the whole thing as much as possible.

Pamie, however is dealing with all the attention like a pro.
(Probably because she IS a pro.)

This week I sent three proposals and presented a business plan. A friend had a baby. That was cool. I wrote a few press releases, client copy and drove to a lunch meeting. This week I hosted 8 people for bridge. Last night, I went to a birthday party, where we gathered around to watch my family on yesterday morning’s Good Morning America. Tonight we have another party to attend, and tomorrow, another one after that. It’s a busy week.

"Mama, tell me about the time you gave your Barbie a haircut."

This whole Barbie thing has been both embarrassing and fun. I got to see how this silly thing grew and grew and eventually my Google Alert sent me a CNN article about the whole thing in Portugese.

I ain’t mad at Barbie. I’m mad at a culture — especially a digital culture — that devalues women except for how they present themselves visually and sexually.

Most of my friends find this whole viral thing thrilling.
I’ve discovered that this just makes my stomach hurt.

Flight or fight.

As of today, I’m 80 percent closer to taking everything personal I ever wrote off the internet. This is because thanks to my view of this news machine from the inside, I’m afraid. I’ve never been afraid of the internet before.

At this particular time in the internet’s history, anyone with a beef against me, no matter how big or small, can take anything I’ve posted from the last 15 years online and use it as evidence of my… terribleness.

Yep, maybe that thing I wrote when I was 23 was sort of racist/offensive/stupid in hindsight. But I’ll be held to the standard of today’s context-blind digital mobs, not held to the standard of my small group of internet friends.

It’s just too risky.

I’m too scared of misrepresentation.
I’m too scared of what the evidence will tell you about me.

I read no comments about this whole thing.
I’m scared of those too.

(Here is where the voice in my head says, “Oh GOD SHUT UP HELEN JANE, get a backbone, stop your bitching, you were a part of it, own it you cow.”)

When it comes to watching the information machine craft, churn and amplify, I’m not convinced I want to be a part of it anymore.

Are you an enthusiastic member of today’s digital sharer?
Convince me not to box this whole thing up and put it away.

20 November, 2014  |   1 Comment

Thanksgiving Budget 2014

Thanksgiving 2013Next week is Thanksgiving. One of our guests is a chef, so my competitive side is coming out. I’m like that. With my guests. Stop talking Helen Jane.

Anyway, Thanksgiving Budget. I have a bad habit about prying into money matters so it’s only fair that I share some details with you. We did it back in 2011 and we’re doing it again — $260 — a huge amount of money for Thanksgiving — here’s how we’re spending out and cheaping out on the budget this year.

cranberries

Spend out

Cheap out

Wine

Table settings

$60

Yesterday I outlined how the wine money gets divvied out. I forgot to add that we always have a bottle of sparkling apple cider for the kids. They love joining in the toast. This will sate 5 grownups and one hairy dog.

$0

The kids always make something amazing for the table — plus! We have some leftover gourds from Halloween!

Turkey

Cornbread & Dinner Rolls

$70

As in 2011, I’m spending the most on our bird. This year I bought the bird for a youth group fundraiser, but our local FFA also raises turkeys for sale. Yours might too!

$5

We’ll make less expensive cornbread — and I’m not shy about telling a helpful guest that they could bring the dinner rolls.

Vegetables and fruits

Potatoes

$50

We make an extra big veggie purchase before the big day to accommodate all our sides. I make the cranberry sauce a week in advance and use the toaster oven to roast the sprouts.

$5

Mashed potato supplies will run me a little less than $5 this year. For this, I am thankful.

Cheese & Appetizers

Dessert

$15

I prioritize guests and snacks. This year we’re putting out some Franklin Teleme, spiced pecans and dried cranberries with some Nut Thins. Easy. Done.

$10

Pumpkin pie is another one of those Thanksgiving things that guests are happy to supply. As a host, I want to make sure I have ice cream, whipped cream and coffee on hand.

Day after Thanksgiving meals

Thanksgiving day meals

$35

I include the “day after” budget as well because I’m spending that cash all in one go. We like our sandwiches on bakery bread with the good bacon.

$10

On the actual Thanksgiving day, we eat cheap. Fruit or cereal for breakfast. Snacks for lunch. Save that cash for the big meal

20 November, 2014  |   3 Comments

Wine Wednesday: Thanksgiving Edition

Back in 2011 I set a Thanksgiving budget and we stuck to it. The budget’s a little less this year – about a third less – and for that we’re lucky and three cheers for Thanksgiving! Tomorrow, I’ll go through this year’s budget.

Our wine budget is now around $60 for the big day. I know! I ain’t complaining. We’re making it work with these three bottles of the wine I’ve been drinking lately for work and fun.

2013 Giesen Riesling
Giesen Riesling
I know, I know I should be drinking American to kick off this meal, but with the way things went with Lord of the Rings, it seems like New Zealand could be, like, at least part American. With a low alcohol point (12.5%) this is the perfect wine for kicking off the holidays but maintaining your cool. Good for people who say they don’t like sweet wine but secretly do. Round, floral and delicious, sip it when the kids are wrassling within eyeshot. Costs about $13.

2012 Niner Pinot Noir

niner-pinot

Costs about $30. Pinot Noir makes the millennials happy, it makes your Gen X aunt happy, it makes your snooty brother happy. This one is a great deal, coming from the on point Paso Robles region of California — from a shiny new winery. It’s balanced, it’s got a slight cranberry taste that makes Stove Top sing.

2012 Renwood Zinfandel
renwood-zin
Zinfandel wine powerhouses Renwood make American wine from a truly American grape. Their winemaker is one of Wine Enthusiast’s 40 under 40. Youth is also an American value! Bold and tasty — it works to punctuate your end of meal political “discussions.” Plus, Zinfandel is just fun to say. Costs nearly $20.

18 November, 2014  |   1 Comment

She used to wink.

Her thumb, tho.

The autograph book came with Country Western Barbie. She had a large, flat button in her back. When you pushed it, her blue eyelid would drop over her eye.

Eventually it broke.
Or we broke it, depending.

As I keep getting older, I find myself wanting to take Country Western Barbie out for a drink.

Find out what she’s been up to.
See who she’s been winking at.

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