Archive for June, 2012
Today we held our son Max’s 4th birthday party. Usually, we do a small family get-together for these kinds of occasions, but as the kids get older, it has expanded to two separate parties — one party with the friends, and one party with the family. I’m not sure how it evolved into two parties for each child (do you do this too?), but it’s far too much work in my opinion!
So, usually I choose to “outsource” the children’s party by hiring a venue. This makes life soooo much easier — you don’t need to clean your house before or after, nor do you need to organize games or even the food. All you need to do is pick up a great cake! (I know I’m not alone in this because I only need to look at my sponsor Help! We’ve Got Kids site to see a complete list of awesome locations for kids’ parties.)
But as this year is the first year that Max has had a party with little friends, I hadn’t clued into the scheduling hiccups I’d run into with the Canada Day long weekend just around the corner. Most venues have openings for the long weekend, but most friends are away. And vice versa: most friends are in town the weekend before the long weekend, but most venues are fully booked.
You know what this meant, right? Yep, Hubby and I were going to need to pull off a Pirate Party (the birthday boy’s requested theme) ourselves. This didn’t faze Hubby one bit. But at this time of year, where both our work places tend to be running at more than full steam, I wondered how we would find the time. But, alas, I am happy to report that we managed to do it!
I sent out email invites for a Sunday party so that we’d have Saturday to pull it all together. And here’s how it all turned out …
Getting in the Mood
If it’s not Hallowe’en season, you’re going to need to hit the local party store (PartyMart in our case) because the regular stores and dollar stores won’t be stocking the right materials for the mateys.
I picked up pirate-themed temporary tattoos and plastic eye patches to help all the little invitees to get in the mood once they arrived. We held the party at a local park, so I also picked up some hanging decorations that we could drape from the trees.
Chocolate Cake (of course)
Upon being asked which flavour of cake he would like, Max requested chocolate (to which his mother replied, “of course!” since that would be my choice too). I didn’t actually want to do cake per se though since cupcakes are a no-brainer — no cutting, no forks, no plates!
Two out out of the five little invitees have nut allergies, so I was going to bake them myself on Saturday. A few weeks ago, I’d seen a pirate cupcake decoration kit at HomeSense, so off I went to find that. But of course, there were none left at my local HomeSense nor at two other Ottawa-area HomeSense stores (which my sweet friend Tanya scouted for me).
However, Google came to the rescue (as he usually does). I was thrilled with how they turned out, but owe all creative kudos to this site.
The cupcakes even managed to survive the transport and the summer heat until being promptly devoured by some very cute little pirate people!
A Pirate Ship Pinata
As long-time readers know, pinatas are a bit of a tradition around here. Stella kicked off this tradition on her third birthday and this year is Max’s first pinata request — a pirate ship. True to form, a pirate ship was indeed delivered by Hubby. He worked into the dark on it on Saturday, and it was so detailed that it really felt like a shame to let it be strung up in the tree for destruction by the little pirates!
The pinata held treasure (gold chocolate coins and candy rings) that all came sprinkling out after many bats with a hockey stick.
The Treasure Hunt
Hubby went out to the park on the Saturday to come up with a plan for a treasure hunt that he was then going to sketch into a map. And what a map it was!
He got a kick out of adding labels to the various elements in the map, like the Kanatasaurus (the park is located in a suburb called Kanata) and the Gazebo of Lost Souls. Yes, this is a nod to Dora the Explorer (Max is a fan)!
The kids really got into this treasure hunt. And when I asked them at goodbye-time what was their favourite part of the pirate party, almost every single child said, “The treasure hunt!” So, if you do nothing else, do a treasure hunt!
The Pirate Booty Loot
The treasure hunt culminated with a big “X” where a treasure chest lay waiting. The children were all told that I was a specialist with locks so we’d need to bring the chest back to the picnic area for me to take a look.
So a merry band of pirates eagerly awaited for me to work my magic. Inside lay all of the lootbags as a party finale.
While most children might prefer a bag full of sugary treats, I am that mother who gives a book for “loot.” (But I swear I don’t give out toothpaste at Halloween!)
I had waltzed into Chapters and asked for some Peter Pan books, thinking I could simply take a page out of Giulia’s party planning tricks. Uh, no so luck. Not a single Peter Pan book in the entire children’s section.
BUT, I totally did score some luck because right in the bargain books section was a pop-up pirate ship book — and in the exact number I needed! Yah!
Stella helped me prepare these by adding a pirate pencil, some pirate tattoos, and a thank-you note.
Naturally, a party is nothing without great company. Big huge thanks to all the parents who joined in the fun and to all of the little pirates for being such good sports!
There’s a lot of work that goes into blogging beyond just typing and pressing publish. I learn on the fly (hello Google!), attend events like BlogWorld, and hire the very fine brains of a local developer that I’ve worked with since day one to try and keep up. There are also some hard costs like hosting fees and owning domains — these are the “keep the lights on” costs of being a blogger.
But when it comes to a lot of the tinkering and housekeeping, I tend to procrastinate. (Yeah, just like real housekeeping … who doesn’t procrastinate on laundry, right?) But just like real housekeeping, it’s satisfying to get these things done too.
So I have been going through my notes from all the sessions that I attended in BlogWorld and creating a laundry list of items to tackle. My blog’s comment system was top on the list because one of my reader’s constantly gets kicked out of the Disqus system (the one I’ve been using until tonight) when she tries to leave a comment. Frustrated, she no longer comments directly on the blog and instead will send me a tweet. (Yes, I’m talking about you Giulia!) Sure, she’s only one person. But hey, when you only have 5 readers (and that includes my parents!), one person is very important!
I’ve been using Disqus for a while now because it was the first system that allowed for conversations (where back and forth responses can be kept together rather than one long list of comments from first entered to last). I had heard of another system called Livefyre that also did this because I read the PR blog Spin Sucks and they were using Livefyre in its beta version. Despite the amazing results that Gini Dietrich shared in reviewing livefyre, I was reluctant to use it because it was new and I didn’t want to start with something only to have to switch it out later.
But between Giulia’s recent troubles and attending a session with Livefyre’s Director of Community and Strategy, I decided to take the jump. In addition to the basic need for conversational flow in comments, Livefyre offers a number of other handy features.
Tagging is Pretty Great
Facebook users will be familiar with the ability to “tag.” This is very handy when you’re responding to someone’s update because if you type a friend’s name, your friend will automatically get an alert and can jump back and respond. Here is an example of what tagging looks like using the Livefyre system. All you need to do is type the person’s name.
Viewing All the Chatter
Also, you’ll notice in the above screen capture that this conversation is from Twitter. That’s because you can carry on conversations from a variety of social media locales, but have them all captured right in the Livefyre system. I think this will be a really nice feature for all of my blog readers who are not on Twitter — you’ll still be able to see conversations that have been going on related to a particular post.
Sharing is Easier
You can also tag other people to come and read a post if you think it will be of interest to them. This means you don’t have to send them a link. Just enter their name and they’ll get an alert.
Plus, you can also share from right in the comments box too.
Let me know!
So, please try out this system and see how you like it! I want to give you the best system to use, so please let me know if you run into any irksome things or simply prefer the old system I was using. It’s all about you. (But you already know that, right?)
So, you might recall that I have a habit of buying expensive, lovely-packaged cereals when I hit the grocery store. Well, a gorgeous box of Dorset Cereals is definitely something I’ve been known to come home with, while managing to forget to buy other staples. I can’t be blamed really … how does one resist such an attractively designed package?
I just love a yummy muesli! Why? I don’t know … there is just something so comforting about a delicious and filling bowl of cereal to me. Also, it helps that Dorset Cereals contain no added sugar or preservatives and tons of fiber and whole grains. The stuff is just pure goodness.
My son prefers the old-fashioned style of muesli with milk, while I do yogurt with muesli sprinkled on top. Stella, my daughter, however is all about eating it with orange juice. She started this trend when we were out of milk one morning and I thought it a tad bizarre but shrugged and allowed it. Now, though, looking at the back of the Dorset Cereal box, I see she is not alone:
Serve with milk, yogurt or fruit juice for a delicious and nutritious breakfast or anytime snack.
My preferred time to have cereal is in the middle of night. If I am having trouble sleeping, I tip-toe downstairs and have a bowl of cereal with milk and it does the trick every time.
Lately, however, I’ve been bypassing all granola and muesli. And that’s because my metabolism has slowed to a snail’s crawl as I’ve gotten older, and as a general rule this kind of cereal is high in calorie and sugar (natural sugars from dried fruits) count. But alas, there is good news on this front! There are two new recipes that have just been introduced into Canada: Simply Nutty Muesli and Honey Granola and the former is the one I am particularly excited about.
Here are the nutritional facts for the Simply Nutty Muesli:
I love the 6 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, and only 8 grams of sugar. If you compare this to, say, General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios, a portion of the same size has 6.4 grams of protein but 4.2 grams of fiber and 19.2 grams of sugar — all for approximately the same calories (236).
Now, as anyone who’s had to watch their intake can tell you, you really need to look at the portion sizes. For Dorset Cereals, the portion size is for 60 grams. Here is what 60 grams of Simply Nutty Muesli looks like:
The measuring cup in my photograph is 1 cup. This amount of cereal might not look like much, but it’s quite filling. Especially if you eat it with the extra protein from a yogurt, like this:
Okay! So what is the giveaway, you ask? One reader will receive a FULL-SIZED BOX of ALL SEVEN RECIPES of Dorset Cereals! In addition, these yummy cereals will arrive to you with one extra goody: a gourmet lunch tote that folds flat for easy storage. I was pretty excited when mine arrived and I’m sure you will be too!
To enter to win this prize pack (worth approximately $75), visit the Dorset Cereals website and then leave a comment below. I will do a random draw from the comments next Monday (June 25th, before 10 am).
So I’ll see you same time, same place, okay? Good luck!
Edited on Monday, June 25th to add: I just did the draw using random.org and the winner is Nicole Shadbolt! CONGRATS, Nicole!
I’ve been to two events recently and many people commented that they didn’t recognize me. So I should explain that I look different. (And I’d also like to warmly welcome anyone who’s new here from the Blog World Expo event in New York City as well as to my awesome local blogger community here in Ottawa from last night’s Blog Out Loud Ottawa event!)
The photo in my blog’s “About” box in the right-hand column of the homepage was taken when I first started this blog (which I think was 2009; I need to look that up I guess). I hired Andrea Tomkins of A Peek Inside the Fishbowl to take it, as she ran a photography business then. And I love the photos she took, so I’ve been in no rush to replace it.
But, really, here is what I look like now. I snapped this photo just now using my laptop. One thing you’ll notice is that I almost always have dark circles under my eyes. These, however, never show in a professional photographer’s photos! I’ve also been growing my hair out for years now. It is such a slow process. My hair does not like to grow (and I also get bored and sometimes derail my progress at the hairdresser’s). To help me from getting distracted from growing it, I change the colour a lot. Right now, it’s red. Not blonde, like the photo on my blog’s homepage.
So there you have it. No excuse for not recognizing me now!