Polar Express Party


In November I was asked to help with the decorations for the church Christmas party.  The person organizing it knew she wanted the theme to be Polar Express but at that point she was still nailing down the details.  We tossed around the idea of making a ticket booth or a big train out of cardboard coming out of the wall.

Fast forward to just after Thanksgiving when we returned from our big vacation to Florida (Disney tips coming soon!) and had a small break in between holidays and we spoke about plans again.  This person was finding a train backdrop and that person was making the ticket booth and so-and-so was in charge of getting some guys together to hang lights.  And for me?  Well she wanted to cover up ALL the ugly carpet on the walls with paper and would I paint some silver trees on that paper?



I spent chunks of that next week painting trees on the floor of the kitchen, one 6 foot section of paper at a time.  I did have some help lined up but once I got started I decided there just wasn’t enough space for more than one person to work on it.  Don’t feel too badly though – a lot of the time was spent waiting for the paint to dry (not one of my favorite things).  Once I got into the rhythm I would spend maybe 10 minutes (20 on the big leafless trees) on the trees, let them dry for a bit, another few minutes for highlights, then let it dry completely.


I am not an artist but one thing crafting has taught me is not to be afraid of trying something new.  And I did ok on my tree during paint night last spring. 😉  So I did a quick internet search for images of trees for inspiration and just ran with it.


Pretty cool huh?  All pulled together with the twinkle lights and everything it was pretty impressive.


Other than my trees, there were a lot of fun party details


The tickets/invitations (aren’t they adorable?)


The ticket booth, where the bishop dressed as the conductor and punched tickets as everyone arrived.


The entry to the gym.  Isn’t that duct tape train track a nice touch?


The young women and activity days girls did all the coffee filter trees and the snowflakes.  Impressive.


The party was held at 9:00 AM on a Saturday.  Everyone wore their pajamas and they two buffet tables set up with french toast casseroles, sausage, fruit, milk and juice.  They also had a fun hot chocolate bar.  I didn’t get photos of anything after people started arriving since I kept running into people I hadn’t seen in a while and was having fun just visiting.


They had conductors set up to punch tickets at each of the stations (arrival, hot chocolate, Santa, etc) but I don’t think the guests were fully clued into that part of the party as I didn’t see much punching going on.


Once everyone had started eating. they had someone sit on stage and read the Polar Express, along with showing a few clips from the movie.  They also had a young couple with a brand new baby dress up as Mary and Joseph.  Then Santa arrived!


I was Santa’s helper for the morning and oh what fun to see all the interactions with Santa and the kids (and the teens and the adults!).  Santa was in top form and was really hamming it up for photos.


Little gift bags from Santa held a silver bell, train whistles and treats.


They also had family photos being taken in front of the big train backdrop by one of the members with her professional photographer set up.


It was a little more work than I was expecting when I agreed to help, but all in all I’m very glad I agreed.  Everything turned out nicely and, even better, I got to spend some time with a lot of great people I wouldn’t have had the chance to see otherwise.

Have you done something new this Christmas season that has added to your holiday experience?  I would love to hear about it!




Linking to:  Home Matters Party, Wow Me Wednesday,

Last Minute Halloween Prep

fall-sunrise-alaynascreationsLife can get crazy-busy very quickly and it is so very easy to let it take us for a ride – which is exactly what has happened to me in the two months or so since my husband got home from deployment.  First, we spent a few weeks all wrapped up in enjoying having him home and doing all of the family stuff still on our bucket list.  Then we jumped into a massive remodel of my parents’ kitchen (so many blog posts to write!) before the husband had to return to his civilian job.  Plus, school started before that project was completed and we have all been doing our best to get back into the normal routine of work/school/extra-curricular activities.

And now?  Now we are knee-deep in October which is Birthday Month around here (7+ birthdays to celebrate – more on that soon!) and I suspect things are going to keep moving just as quickly.

Which brings me to today’s project, or rather yesterday’s project – my son’s class party for Halloween.  His teacher has developed her own traditions and one of them is performing a Mad Scientist show for other classes in the school.  I’ve known about this for weeks – after all, I’m the Room Mom this year and my job was to organize the parent helpers and donations to provide lunch for the class in the middle of their busy day of Mad Scientist shows.  So it really shouldn’t have been a surprise when my 9-year-old came home the night before the party talking about turning a shirt into a lab coat.

I guess I had just figured that a pair of safety goggles and some crazy hair would be a “good enough” costume (and really that would have been fine) but my little guy wanted something a bit more.


(ah boys – he was dead convinced that Mad Scientists don’t smile and I couldn’t manage to get him to pose any other way)

An old shirt and a Sharpie saved the day.  In less than 5 minutes (and $0!) we were able to transform a shirt he no longer wanted to wear into a lab coat by simply drawing a few lines on it with a marker.


It turned out cute, he was pretty excited about it  – and after seeing all the other kids, some with full wigs and everything, I was glad we put in the little bit of extra effort.

Tyler received plenty of compliments on his costume and it had me wondering…I bet that’s not the only costume that could be pulled together in a pinch with just a shirt and a Sharpie.  Any ideas for other options?!


5 Summer Themed Gift Basket Ideas for Under $25

5 Summer Themed Gift Basket Ideas for Under $25

Happy 4th of July!  It’s ok if I jump the gun a little bit right?  I’m pretty sure the festivities (4 nights of rodeo) start tomorrow night here anyway.

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays.  I love the enthusiasm for it here in my hometown.  The flags all over the place.  So many events to pick and choose however we want to celebrate.  And the red, white and blue – one of my favorite color combinations.  So, when it worked out that it’s my mom’s turn to host our Bunco group right after the 4th of July we were really excited to put together the prizes.  And what better for a 4th of July/summer theme than food-related gift baskets?!

The prizes are supposed to range in cost from about $12 to $24 so all five of these gift basket ideas are under $25.  As a fun twist we not only stuck to a summer food/dinner theme but tried to incorporate as much of the red, white and blue patriotic theme as we could find.  With the 24th of July Pioneer Days celebration here in Utah, we keep the red, white and blue out the entire month of July 😉

Picnic Themed Summer Gift Basket Patriotic Red White and Blue for 4th of July

My favorite basket would have to be our picnic themed one.  We found this adorable insulated picnic basket to use as the base for the gift (from TJ Maxx).  I love that it’s red, white and blue colors but flower-patterned instead of stars and stripes so you can use it any time of year.  We filled the basket with  patriotic themed picnic supplies – paper plates, napkins, those adorable red mason jar drinking cups with straws, a vinyl tablecloth, and red, white and blue tortilla chips to finish it off.

Fourth of July Patriotic Themed Gift Basket Idea Summer Picnic Gift Basket Idea for Bunco Wedding or other events

Ice Cream Themed Summer Gift Basket Idea Patriotic Red White and Blue for 4th of July

What’s summer without ice cream, right?  We just had to do an ice cream themed basket but the kind of base to use for the theme was a bit of a sticking point.  In the end we went with a basket of sand toys – ice cream and the beach works great, right?  The little sand strainer was the perfect thing to lift the items up so you can seem them above the top of the basket.  The basket is filled with an ice cream scoop, ice cream cones and waffle bowls, and a selection of toppings like chocolate and caramel syrup, marshmallow cream, and of course, some red white and blue sprinkles.

Popcorn Themed Summer Gift Basket Idea

With all of the free concerts in the park, drive-ins, or those fun DIY back yard movie theaters that summer has to offer, we went with a popcorn theme for our third basket.  This one was also a good fit for our least expensive gift basket since it doesn’t take a lot to make this one cute.  We grabbed a blue popcorn bowl for the base and smaller individuals bowls in red, then added some microwave popcorn and a selection of popcorn seasonings.

Hot Dog Roast Themed Summer Gift Basket Idea

Our local grocery store always has these great hot dog roasting sticks in stock and we knew we wanted to use these for one of the gifts (I have a set and we use them ALL the time).  The tricky part was figuring out how to package up something so long and skinny.  In the end we went a similar route as the ice cream but instead of sand toys we tied everything to a children’s bat and ball set  (baseball and hotdogs – totally works).  We also added a set of hot dog baskets (red, white, and blue!) like you would get at the drive-in, condiment squirt bottles and a container of potato chips.

BBQ Themed Summer Gift Basket Patriotic for 4th of July

For our final gift basket we went with a back yard grilling/BBQ theme.  The container is a plastic water pitcher to which we added some grilling tools, kebab baskets, corn on the cob holders, a grill brush with some barbeque sauce and a marinade, and a lighter.

BBQ Themed Summer Gift Basket Idea

I can’t decide which one I would like to win – can you? 😉  I can’t wait for our Bunco party, but first I’m going to enjoy the fireworks this weekend.

Five Summer Themed Gift Basket Ideas for Bunco Wedding gift or other special occasion


Splash Bash – Last Day of School Water Party

Hello Summer!

Well, almost summer here.  The kids still have one more week left of school but the countdown has certainly begun and I’m nearly as excited for the change in routine as the kids are.  Oh how great to get a later start on the mornings, and to not have to wait until the kids are out the door in order to get a chance to take a shower!  (someone remind me of this feeling on one of those long summer afternoons when the kids are “bored” or constantly bickering!)

This past weekend the kids and I sat down to work on our Summer Bucket List – which has become one of our yearly traditions.  (you can see last year’s list HERE and I will post this year’s soon!)  As we were talking I noticed a theme emerging from their suggestions – fun time with friends.  I wondered for a second if my kids have been feeling…socially deprived…?  (and if so, do I lose Mom Points for that? 😉  ) but quickly realized it was just a manifestation of their fun-loving, outgoing sides which I would like to help them nurture.  Being a bit of an introvert myself, I admire that side of their personalities while at the same time I have to subvert my own desire for calm and quiet in order to give them the chance to explore that.  So we made a list of things they wanted to do with friends and party ideas and I agreed to let them host something on a regular basis.

Splash Bash Fun and Easy Summer party or end of the school year party Alaynas CreationsFirst up on their list – a party for the last day of school!  This is something we did a few times in our old neighorhood but didn’t follow through with last year and Kaitlyn, in particular, was very excited about hosting something.  She quickly decided on a water theme (after seeing an idea on Pinterest for SlipNSlide baseball a few days before) and in less than 30 minutes we not only had a plan and menu ideas, but had created and printed out the invitations too.

Summer Water Party Splash into Summer End of the School Year party invitation AlaynasCreations

I found the Splash clip art on the internet then simply added the wording over the top and printed everything onto cardstock (4 to a page).  The back side of the invitation holds all the details:  time, date, location, etc.

Splash Bash Summer Water Party Invitation Easy DIY invite for a fun and inexpensive summer party AlaynasCreations

We checked the weather forecast and so far it looks like we will have sunshine and decent temperatures – yay!  That means we can go ahead with our ideas for SlipNSlide kickball, water gun target shooting and Splash Ball lacrosse.  (actually we don’t know how to play lacrosse but we do have a couple of sticks and they can play catch)  Kaitlyn helped me pick up supplies and snacks last night so we’re all set to party.  Bring on the last day of school and bring on SUMMER!

I’ll be sure to post party details after the event – check back soon!  Or check out some of our other Last Day of School Traditions, End of the Year gifts for teachers and kids (Buckets of Fun idea or Teacher Gifts in a Cup ideas) or Summer Fun Ideas that Won’t Break the Bank.

Linking to:  Home Matters Party, Pretty Pintastic Party,

30th Birthday Un-Birthday Mad Hatter Tea Party

Alice In Wonderland Mad Hatter Tea Party Place Setting

It’s Friday!  I love Fridays!  (Who doesn’t??)

I’ve been doing a bit of reminiscing today.  On a Friday just about a year ago a friend of mine and I threw a surprise birthday party for our good friend, our “third amigo.”  I moved out of state shortly after that and today my friend started her trip across country on her own move, leaving our almost-birthday girl back in NC.  These things happen, particularly with military life.  We’ll keep in touch as we have this year, make plans to meet up when we can, and have fun remembering all the good times we had together.  So let’s remember, shall we?  I’d love to share the details of the party – a Mad Hatter 30th Un-birthday Tea Party.  That’s what the birthday girl wanted.  She mentioned it to me a year before (on her 29th birthday) that it would be fun to have a Mad Hatter Tea Party for her 30th.  I’m kind of proud of myself for remembering LOL.  For a few years now I’ve thought the whole Alice in Wonderland theme is full of cute and fun ideas and I’ve tried more than once to convince my daughter that it would be a fun birthday party for her but she always votes for a differnt party theme.  I even had some ideas Pinned already.

Mad Hatter Tea Party Surprise 30th Birthday Party

And let’s face it – what better way to spend an afternoon than having a tea party with these crazy ladies?
So my friend and I started plotting and had the birthday girl set aside some time for a “craft day.”  First on the prep list – hats!  About a week before the party my friend and I got together to make fun little Mad Hatter type hats for everyone.

Mad Hatter Tea Party Hair Fascinator Mad Hatter Mniature Hat

The guests got black and white fabric hats with some sort of variation on the heart (Queen of Hearts) theme for the ribbon.

Mad Hatter Hat Hair Clip Party Hat
The birthday girl got one a little bigger and brighter.  We used this tutorial for the hats and it worked like a charm.  We used plastic cups instead of paper and the fabric still adhered to it with the hot glue just fine.  We didn’t use the cup lids for the tops of the hats, just traced around the lip of the cup and cut a matching sized piece out of an old cereal box.  Then we attached it all to alligator clips so they would stay in our hair.  If I were to do it again I probably would have gone with headbands.  I think the hats would have stayed in place on our heads better with those.
This little guy was the only kiddo not old enough to be in school while we were working on everything.  He wasn’t a fan of us trying to get things done instead of playing with him and made it very hard for his mommy to do much.  Luckily he was in a much better mood on the day of the party and the entire time we were setting up he had that cute smile plastered on his face while he happily played in the playpen (phew!).
Mad Hatter Tea Party Birthday Party Tablescape

On to the party details!  I’m so pleased with how everything turned out.  It came together very easily and with very little expense as I tried to use what I already had or make most things ourselves.  The only things I bought specifically for the party (other than food, of course) were the mismatched tea cups and saucers and the little teapot from the thrift store.  To get the biggest effect for our efforts we kept the decorations confined to the dining table and the food display.

30th Unbirthday Alice In Wonderland Birthday Party Tablescape
The clock came directly off my kitchen wall 😉  I had already taken it down and removed the hands in preparation for packing it up and it made the perfect base for the centerpiece.  Add in a few colorful flowers, the misdirection sign posts and mismatched tableware, and the bright eclectic look was pretty easy to pull off.
30th Unbirthday Tea Party Place Setting

Each table setting was different from the rest.

30th Birthday Unbirthday Tea Party Place Setting
Mad Hatter Tea Party Place Setting
DIY Mad Hatter Hat Hair Clip
30th Unbirthday Party Decorations Antique Key

And aren’t the keys adorable?!  I ran across them at JoAnn’s a couple of years ago in the dollar section with the intention of framing them somehow but haven’t done it yet.

30th Unbirthday Signpost Centerpiece Mad Hatter Tea Party
30th Unbirthday Cupcake Alice in Wonderland Party
Cheshire Cat Wall Decoration

Can’t forget the Cheshire cat!  He hung out above the pantry.  We thought about doing a playing card garland hanging from the chandelier, but we ran out of time.  We had also planned to have the Very Merry Un-birthday song playing in the background when the birthday girl arrived, but we forgot to download it and our hurried attempt to YouTube it and play it on the cell phone wasn’t quite as effective.  Oh well.  😉

Alice in Wonderland Tea Party Food Table

On to the food!  All tea parties need lots of food in teeny tiny portions, right?  We grabbed random tea cups and mugs to use for the food display.  The giant tea cups are actually flower pots that I use for seasonal decorations.  The Happy Birthday plate was one I made years ago on one of our Saturdays with The Girls at a paint-your-own place.
The menu included: southwestern egg rolls, pigs in a blanket, buffalo wings, fruit skewers, individual 7-layer dips and chips, miniature chocolate cupcakes and tiny caramel tarts.  The teapot was filled with cold sweet tea and we also had pumpkin hot chocolate to drink.

Tea Party Tiny Tea Cakes
Alice in Wonderland Tea Party Fruit Skewers Eat Me
Tea Party Individual 7 Layer Dip
30th Unbirthday Alice In Wonderland Tea Party Centerpiece Flowers in a Tea Cup
Mad Hatter Tea Party Stacked Tea Cup Food Display
30th Unbirthday Suprise Birthday Party Alice In Wonderland

Total success!  Our friend was very surprised (Yay!  It’s hard to keep a secret like that!) and we had so much fun no one wanted to go home.  We ended up crafting after all just to prolong the our time together that day.

I miss these two.  They are a lot of fun, hugely loyal, and taught me a lot about how to loosen up and not be so serious about life all the time.  Even grown-ups need to have tea parties once in a while, right?

Linking to:  Pretty Pintastic Party, Saturday Sharefest, BFF Open House, Friday Finds, Creative Exchange, Merry Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Celebrate it Sunday, Sundays Down Under, Made By You Monday, Your Turn to Shine, LouLou Girls, Idea Box, Best DIY Projects and Recipes Party, Link Party Palooza,

Let’s Bake a Cake – Wedding Gift Basket

Cake Baking Supplies Gift Basket is perfect gift idea for weddings and bridal showers

Gift giving is hard, doncha’ think?  At least that’s how I feel, especially when I don’t know the recipient very well.  No scratch that, it’s hard even if you’re best friends with the person you are giving the gift to (like the husband – aren’t men the hardest?)  Or maybe that’s just my perfectionist side coming out.  I always want to get the perfect gift – one they will love and enjoy and not something that gets opened then set aside to take up space on a shelf somewhere, or worse – taken to the store and exchanged!   😉  So, when I hit upon a gift idea I really like, I really want to share it.

A little over a week ago I found myself in the city starting in on the Back to School shopping with my daughter (is it really time to start thinking about that again?!).  When I’m out shopping, especially if it’s in the city and I don’t have my little guy along (he tends to slow things down) I like to hit as many stores as I can and get stocked up on anything I may need in the next couple of weeks.  And with another family wedding coming up, I was on the look out not only for a flower girl dress for Kate (found something that will work – yay!) but I also needed gifts for the wedding and the bridal shower.  Figuring kitchen items were a good place to start I wandered more than one store without finding any inspriation (and one of them was Target – how do you not get inspired at Target?!) until I stumbled across a great little cake stand and a bell went off – put together a cake baking gift basket!

Cake Baking Gift Basket Idea for Wedding or Bridal Shower

From there it was pretty easy.  Sure, I gathered things from at least three different stores, but as I was planning to go to those stores anyway it wasn’t a big deal.

Then it was time to figure out how to put it all together.  At first I tried piling everything up, thinking I would tie it together with a big ribbon and a bow or something.

Bake a Cake Wedding Gift Basket Idea

Kind of cute, but there was no way it was going to survive the car trip to the bridal shower and still look good.  And I didn’t have any of those big cello bags or tulle handy.  So I grabbed a basket instead (dollar store.  This time of year that place is practically overflowing with containers for Back to School/college.  It’s awesome).

Gift Basket Idea Cake Baking Supplies includes cake stand baking pans and more


I stuffed the bottom with newspaper and covered that up with some tissue paper so the items would sit higher in the basket, which makes a better display.  Sure, I could have stuffed it all in a big gift bag and called it good – and I almost did that when I found myself running out of days before the shower and no chance to drive the 25 min to the craft store. However, I think part of the appeal of a gift basket – and I’m a huge fan of gift baskets lately –  is the visual look of them with everything piled inside all cute and easy to explore.

In case you can’t tell from the pictures, inside the basket you will find:
-cake stand
-2 round cake pans
-spatulas/rubber scrapers (the one that says “I kiss even better than I cook” was a huge hit)
-cake decorating bags
-a couple of cake decorating tips and a coupler
-cake mixes and a can of frosting (I tried to find some unique ones like the strawberry cheesecake mix and the cookies and cream frosting)
-cupcake liners
Other good ideas would include:  a favorite cake recipe or cookbook, actual baking supplies like flour and baking powder, parchment paper, a cake/cupcake decorating ideas book, etc

I kiss even better than I cook spatula

The bridal shower was last weekend and I’m happy to report that the gift basket seemed to be well received.  Yay!Bake a Cake Gift basket is the perfect gift for weddings or bridal showers

Want more gift ideas for weddings, bridal showers (or anything else really) – check out my Date Night Picnic Basket Idea.

I think we will be done with our current batch of wedding invites soon, but it always pays to have an idea or two up your sleeve so I’m curious – what is your favorite wedding/bridal shower gift to give or receive?

Linking to:  Merry Monday, Lou Lou Girls, Project Inspired, Inspire Me Monday, Your Turn to Shine, Thursday Favorite Things, BFF Open House, Pin Me Linky Party, Snickerdoodle Sunday, Sundays Down Under, Tutorials and Tips Link Party, Something to Talk About,

Back to School Mom’s Brunch

I am not one of those moms that spends the whole summer wishing the kids were back in school but I have to admit that there are a lot perks for Stay at Home Moms when the kids are in school.  Like the fact that the only dishes in the sink or crumbs on the counter are the ones I put there.  😉  And the quiet – oh the quiet house!  The kids are ready for a change too, even if they wouldn’t admit it.

It feels like summer has barely begun, yet already Back to School preparations are on the radar.  I’m seeing signs go up in stores and ideas being pinned on Pinterest.  I even got out the calendar yesterday and counted up how much time we have before the kids are back in school – 5 weeks!  It’s going to be here before we know it.

True to form, I usually do my best to add a few special touches to the first day of school.  I make special muffins or pancakes for the kiddos for breakfast, make sure they have something fun in their lunchboxes, and pull out the last of my husband’s award winning chocolate chip cookie dough from the freezer so they have fresh from the oven cookies when they got off the bus.  However, what I personally look forward to the most is my annual Back to School Mom’s Brunch! (photos are from brunch last year)

Chalkboard and Maps Oh the Places You'll Go Back to School Brunch for Moms

This is a tradition I started back when my daughter first started Kindergarten.  I knew I would be a little sad to see her growing up and wanted a way to celebrate the milestone – and to distract myself.  It served its purpose perfectly and I have had a casual Mom’s Brunch every year since.  I don’t go into full out party mode – the point is to keep it casual and just enjoy some time with the ladies without (most of) the kids running around.  I set aside the first day of school for myself with no real worries about the To Do List so brunch can go on as long as we feel like it.  I think a couple of years a few of us were still sitting around visiting until it was time to meet the afternoon bus 😉

Back to School Moms Brunch Celebrate the kids first day back at school with a fun get together with other moms

I do Mom’s Brunch potluck style so prep work on my end is minimal though I do like to add just a little bit of fun to the food display.  A few weeks before school started I ran across this great Dr Seuss printable (here) and with our big moving date looming in the near future I knew that a Places You’ll Go theme was exactly what we needed last year.  In keeping with the chalkboard style I printed out a few more school-type signs (ran out of time though so only one made it onto the table – the fun flags and water bottle labels will have to get their turn another time.  You can find those printables here).  Then I added a few maps to round out the Going Places idea.  The maps themselves were road maps of the states – one for North Carolina (where we lived at the time), one for Utah (where we were moving to soon), and the others were the home states of some of my friends.  And yes, my friends did actually notice and comment on the fact that their states were included.  (See?  The details DO matter!)

Oh the Places You'll Go Back to School Moms Brunch
Party Idea for Moms Back to School Brunch on the first day of school

I know – I should have taken the covers off the dishes and the coffee cake wasn’t even out of the oven for this photo but hey – when you have to decide between taking beauty shots for the blog and actually participating in your own party… 😉

Happy Back to School Everyone!  I hope this year is a wonderful one for all!

My Pinterventures

The Answer Is Chocolate

Featured on Merry Monday and BFF Open House

Linking to:  LouLou Girls, Turn It Up Tuesday, Project Inspired, Your Turn to Shine, Thursday Favorite Things, Wow Me Wednesday, Pin Me Link Party, BFF Open House, Pretty Pintastic Party, Lifestyle Link Up, DIY Sunday Showcase, Saturday Sharefest, Snickerdoodle Sunday, Merry Monday, Blog Hobnob Link Up, Frugal Friday, Link Party Palooza,

Stars and Stripes Corn Hole Boards DIY Tutorial

DIY Corn Hole Boards Make your own beanbag toss yard game Instructions for stain technique

We are all still in a patriotic mood aren’t we?  After all, July isn’t over yet, and here in Utah festivities have begun for Pioneer Day on the 24th, which are celebrated much the same as the 4th of July with rodeos, parades, flags, and fireworks – and the town demolition derby!  (small towns – gotta love ’em)  I’m pretty much in Red, White, and Blue mode from Memorial Day until the first of August.  So now seems like the perfect time to share our newly finished Stars and Stripes Corn Hole Boards.

Corn Hole isn’t necessarily a Utah thing.  In fact, I had never heard of it until we moved to North Carolina, where it is very popular – so popular that when we were invited to a wedding, along with the dancing and the food, they also had a few Corn Hole boards set up.  For all of you that may have needed an explanation of the game (as we did) Corn Hole is basically a beanbag toss-type yard game played individually or in teams.  The rules are pretty simple and so is the set up, so of course it wasn’t long before my husband wanted to try to build his own set of boards (they are pretty pricey to buy, especially custom ones).  And once they were built, he very quickly wanted to improve them LOL.  We ended up with three sets, two of which we left with friends in NC when we moved and brought one of the unfinished sets with us across country.

DIY Corn Hole Board Stars and Stripes Patterned Stain Treatment

They sat in the garage until the end of June when the husband insisted that we try to finish them to use at our big family BBQ on the 4th of July.  I did finish them all right – but then we forgot to load them up and take them with us to the BBQ!  (haha – still shaking my head at that one)  I am determined that they will get used this summer – really they will!  But until I follow through with that, I may as well show them off here on the blog, right?!

Stars and Stripes Corn Hole Boards DIY beanbag toss yard game

Typically the boards have some sort of theme like sports teams or colleges, etc.  The husband may have been into that but it’s not anything I truly have a preference for (and no, I did not want to make a Dale Jr NASCAR one LOL) so I went with the Stars vs Stripes.  Not only did that seem like a good fit for us as a military family, but it allowed me to use one of my favorite finishing techniques – masking off the design before staining so it becomes part of the item instead of an applied accessory.

My Favorite Stain Technique How to get this look yourself DIY Corn Hole Boards

Stars and Stripes corn hole boards stain technique
Isn’t that pretty?  I like the contrast between the two wood colors and though the shapes can be seen clearly, the stain does bleed a tiny bit which gives it more of a hand-made distressed or vintage look.  And look – I even threw together a quick tutorial so you can try out the technique too!

How To Get This Look Tutorial for Stars and Stripes Corn Hole Board Stain Technique

Easy right?!  And such a pretty final product.  I have also used the stain technique on some decorative quote boards (see one of my favorites HERE) and love the result.  You just have to be sure the lettering or shapes aren’t too thin or too tiny or the stain will go under the edges too easily.  I cut the vinyl stars myself using my Silhouette machine, but if you don’t have access to one of those it wouldn’t take long to hand cut the starts using self-adhesive vinyls sheets from the craft store.

Patriotic Beanbag Toss yard game is perfect for your next BBQ

I did finish them off with a few coats of spray Polycrylic which gives them a nice finish and should hold up if we accidentally leave them outside in a rainstorm.  For anyone that is interested, the plans we used for official measurements to build the boards can be found on this website.  As always, if you do try out the boards or the stain technique I would love to see your creations so feel free to drop me a comment or an email.

Oh – one other thing (this may be kind of an important one! lol)  The official set up and rules for a Corn Hole game can be found on this site.

There.  Now we’re all ready to play.  Who’s going to challenge my husband to the first game? 😉

Interested in other great tips for Inexpensive Summer Fun with the Kids, great ideas for getting together with friends and using your new corn hole boards like my Splash Bash water party, or check out some great Summer Themed Gift Baskets under $25 along with the other recent posts on my blog!


***Featured on:
BeMakeful’s Long Weekend Celebration (go vote for your favorite!)
Merry Monday

Linking to:  Made By You Monday, Merry Monday, LouLou Girls, Turn It Up Tuesday, Project Inspired, Your Turn to Shine, Thursday Favorite Things, Wow Me Wednesday, Pin Me Party, BFF Open House, Pretty Pintastic Party, DIY Sunday Showcase, Saturday Sharefest, Snickerdoodle Sunday,

Outdoor Entertaining Space Design Board

Some days it’s just fun to dream isn’t it?  I have a lot of dreams and plans right now – to get started building the new house, to spend more time on the blog, to get the kids out and experience all the great things the world has to offer, to slow down and enjoy the summer, to find the time to entertain friends and have a BBQ.  We did so much of last year but haven’t hosted a BBQ (for anyone other than family) even once this summer – and it’s half over!  I truly do love throwing a good party and it used to feel so easy.  I haven’t been quite sure why it doesn’t work the same now we have moved back to my hometown (goodness knows we have tons of people we want to reconnect and have some fun with!), then it hit me the other day.  We don’t have a “good” entertaining space.

Could it really be as simple as that?  That the reason I haven’t followed through and invited people over isn’t so much lack of time but because the actual act of pulling it together doesn’t seem easy with our current set up?  Yup, I think that just might be it!  The thought of dragging out the table and chairs from behind the teetering stacks of moving boxes in the garage, setting up the canopy for shade, transporting all the bits and pieces from the kitchen through the garage, around the fence and down the hill to the place we see as the best for a picnic (as using another part of the yard would require cleaning up after the dogs) and…well it just all sounds like a lot of work.  I found myself wishing for my house in North Carolina with its screen porch and deck right off the kitchen and how convenient it all was.

The other day I received a fun request from Chairish asking me to create a design board using some of the pieces from their site.  It was kind of an open-ended request with not a lot of direction and so many possibilities and I was kind of lost about how to start.  As I was looking through the site I found myself drawn to all of the outdoor pieces so I decided to do a little dreaming of my own.  If I were to create a great outdoor entertaining space for our situation right here, right now, what would it include?

I found a few tables I loved but thought, no, I need a good anchor piece and I think in this case it would be a nice case piece that could be used as a buffet/food serving table.

I love this one

And oh!  Look at the great card catalog type drawers on this one!
But if I’m to be even partially realistic, I thought, I would actually try to use at least one piece of furniture I currently own – the turquoise console table!

Turqouise Console table DIY with shutters Teal Console Table TV Entertainment Center
This console came about from a trip to the Habitat Resale Store with one of my good friends (who is often my crafty partner in crime) where I picked up a set of shutters and the legs.  At the time I really wanted some sort of table/entertainment piece for the living room to house the cable box and DVD player and I figured the shutters would do a good job of hiding the ugly pieces of technology while still allowing the remotes to access them.  The husband was happy to put together the base for me, which I enthusiastically painted turquoise and distressed.  And I loved (love) it.


But anyway – back to our design scenario.  😉  With the anchor piece in place, the next thing that caught my eye was this big metal flag.  I love a good variation on the stars and stripes (and am kind of a sucker for metal lately) and to me the 4th of July and all things patriotic also feel like a symbol of summer.  So I’m thinking that big shiny flag would need to go above the console table.  Picture the console covered with yummy food (ribs and corn on the cob, anyone?), with a pot of flowers for color.

Next – seating!  A great metal table and chairs for eating and some classic Adirondack style chairs for sitting by the campfire roasting marshmallows and chatting the night away with friends. The table would need a simple centerpiece, not too tall so you can see the person across the table from you… A set of three pots in a tray – perfect with some herbs or bright flowers planted in them, and probably painted in a bright color like red to set them off from the darker table.  Let’s brighten it up with some more colors and bring the turquoise into it a bit more with patterned chair cushions or pillows.  And this fun pillow would tie into the patriotic theme a bit without screaming 4th of July too loudly.  Finish it off with some more planters, a rug, and a big bucket to hold drinks and I think we’d be all set to entertain!

Outdoor Entertaining Space Design Board

Yep, that’s a fun combination!
*sigh* Back to reality huh?  But I’m thinking maybe, even without the perfect entertaining space, I might just need to plan a dinner party…

*photos of items are from Chairish and Polyvore.  This was just for fun – I have not been compensated by the companies for this post.

Want more fun decorating ideas for your summer?  Check out the Swimming Subway Art my daughter and I created.  Bonus – I included the Silhouette cut file so you can make it yourself!
Linking to:  Made By You Monday, Wow Me Wednesday, Lou Lou Girls,

Monster Truck Birthday Party

Flashback Friday?  Tyler was looking over my shoulder this evening as I scrolled through old blog posts trying to decide what I wanted to repost today.  He got really excited when he saw the Pirate birthday party (“I didn’t know I had a pirate party!”) and even more excited when he saw the Monster Truck birthday party and immediately declared that his next birthday (December) he wants a Monster Truck slumber party complete with a real giant tire that “looks at though it fell off a monster truck” and an obstacle course with a pool.  While I’m secretly hoping he forgets about the whole slumber party idea (I know I let Kaitlyn have her first big slumber party when she turned nine but I’m not sure I want to face a house full of rowdy little boys all night, do I?!), we did have fun looking through the photos from the party and discussing ideas.

Monster Truck Birthday Party for Preschool and Elementary Age Boys
When our little guy turned 4, I just knew he needed a Monster Truck theme birthday, and one I could throw together quickly as we were moving out of state and I needed to squeeze the party in a month before his birthday in among Halloween and packing and everything else.  The Monster Truck idea was actually a really fun theme to pull together. It also doesn’t hurt that it rarely takes much to have the little ones saying “oh cool!” and “awesome!”

 I decided on black, white, and lime green for the colors. Found some clipart online and colored it to match the theme and used it for everything: the invitations, decorations and even as a way to dress up the bendy straws. The rest of the decorations were easy to pull together. I had black and white checkered flags and plastic table clothes left over from Sam’s party (his 30th!) and used them everywhere, even cutting them down into triangles to make quick pennant banners. I also made giant truck tires out of posterboard and a custom license plate for Ty.

The invitation: (yes I made a typo – it’s supposed to say Nov but I didn’t realize it until we were delivering them and someone pointed it out. oops)

Monster Truck Birthday Party Invitations Pit Pass Style

The front door:  That’s always the first impression guests have and I like to use it to set the tone for the party or at least give a nod to the theme.  Plus, a little decor and a few balloons make it easy for guests to find the party house.

The food:

Monster Truck Birthday Party Food Table Display and Ideas
I went really simple with the cupcakes – chocolate cupcakes, lime green frosting, and crushed Oreo cookie “dirt” on top. I didn’t even do my typical fancy cake for the Grandparents party – they got cupcakes too.-“truck tire” donuts

-checkered “wheel” pretzels

-and the monster truck straws with green punch

Favors:  I used the cute mini canvas totes that I found on clearance at Michael’s (3 for 25 cents!) that I dressed up with a little rick rack and license plate name tags

and filled them with a Hot Wheels type monster truck (dollar store), some truck theme mini pencils, and the candy and Silly Bands I purposely set aside from Kaitlyn’s party

The Fun:
-I always start the party with some coloring pages. I’ve found that the kids need something to do while waiting for everyone to show up, or they end up bouncing off the walls and destroying the place in no time.-then to set the mood for the party I had them watch a couple of monster truck clips I found on YouTube. I think some of those boys (Tyler included) could have happily watched those for the entire party.

-next up, they made their own monster truck arenas. I had all kinds of supplies available from markers, stickers, and stamps, to rocks, wooden ramps, and old Hot Wheels cars (that I had crushed with a hammer to make them look authentic).

They were each given one of those cardboard containers that soda and soup cans are delivered to stores on and they went to town with their creations. When they had it exactly how they wanted it I stuck it all down with the glue gun.

This one is Kaitlyn’s

-and then it was time for the obstacle course. Each child took a turn taking the monster truck through it. (the arrows I used to keep them on course were found here. I printed them and covered them with contact paper, then taped them to the floor. They held up surprisingly well)

while the others cheered them on 🙂

-and finished the party with treats and gifts.

I found this was more than enough activity to fill the 90 minutes. In fact, I didn’t even have to pull out my Standby Game of Red Light, Green Light or run more YouTube clips for them. But if you’re looking for another cute activity I just ran across a fun printable for Pin the Wheel on the Monster Truck here.
Monster Truck Birthday Party Checkered Flag Backdrop and Custom License Plate

There’s the Birthday Boy! He had a fantastic time.

And wasn’t he so cute and little?!  Awww, I want to go back in time and give that boy a hug!

Linking to:  Link Party Palooza, BFF Open House Link Party,