Ask Design Mom — Having Another Child



Ask-Design-Mom-Questions:

I have a strong yearning for another child and am looking for an infallible way to decide whether to take the plunge (just joking, I know it’s a leap of faith, but am looking for advice from people who might know about these things).
What factors would do you take into consideration upon deciding whether to have another child? Thanks for taking the time to answer. — Sarah

Hi Gabrielle. I would like to have a big family as well. I’m married almost 2 years and we are looking to start our family in a year or so. A few questions: How far apart are your children in age? Did you plan to have so many children? Did you plan to have them x amount of years apart? Thanks. — Venessa

Design Mom Answer:
These are such worthy questions. Thank you for sending them, Sarah and Venessa. The answer to how many kids you should have and how they should be spaced is, of course, super personal. And everyone reading has a different opinion and answer.

I’ll share what my basic plan was. And hopefully readers will let you know how they’ve come to their family-size decisions as well. I need to make very clear: this was our plan. I’m not advocating it to anyone else. Period.

When I married at 21, I talked with Ben Blair about a basic plan. We both came from big families and wanted lots of kids. I wanted to be done bearing children by 35 — the age many risks increase. (Edit: apparently 35-as-riskier is a bit of a myth — but I didn’t know that at 21.) So I thought: let’s have our 1st at 23 (when we’re done with school) and then have one every other year at 25, 27, 29, 31. And if we want more, we can have #6 at 33 and #7 at 35. Done and done.

How it really happened: we had our first at 23, our 2nd at 24, our 3rd at 27, our 4th at 30 and 5th at 31. Number 6 is due when I’m 35.

Basically, as soon as we made the plan we discovered we had no control over the plan. Very few of us are lucky enough to conceive or adopt exactly when and where we want to. And very few of us have such an ordered life and are wise enough that the plans we make at 21 still make sense at 31.

Bottom line: feel free to make a plan, but get really comfortable with the idea that the plan might not work. Some people (including me) find praying helps them feel settled about the decisions they make for their family. Others depend on counsel from friends and loved ones. Ultimately, I hope you’ll feel confident that you can know what’s best for your family.

Dear Readers, how about you? How many kids do you want to have? Are you done? How do you decide when to add more children to your families?

Ask Design Mom — Homemade Gifts Kids can Make

Ask-Design-Mom-Question: I was inspired by your site to have my children make gifts for one another this year. I was trying to find your previous posts about the gifts you have made in the past, but I was only able to find one. I would love it if you could gather all of these ideas in one place. Thanks in advance. — Kristin Design Mom Answer: Thanks for the question, Kristin. I’ve actually been getting lots of similar requests — readers wanting to know what we’ve made in the past, and what we’re making this year. I’ll start with a short explanation — four years ago, based on the artsy-craftsy tendencies of my kids, we decided that the siblings would make each other gifts for Christmas. It’s become a fun tradition. One the whole family looks forward to. You can read my original post about it here. What our plans are for this year: Note: these plans are subject to change depending on my whims. Or if a better idea falls in my lap. Ralph is making — -Jump Ropes for Maude and Olive The girls want to learn double-dutch, so we’ll be happy to have two long jump-ropes to add to the family sports equipment. –Blurb Photo Books for Oscar and Betty Maude is making — -A Night Light Cover for Oscar and Betty’s room -A Sketch Book with a Decoupaged Cover for Ralph -Legwarmers for Olive (inspired by the comments on this post) Olive is making — Olive will be using potato stamps (a la Martha Stewart) and fabric ink to customize… -Boxers for Ralph -A hoodie for Maude -A t-shirt for Oscar -A t-shirt dress for Betty Oscar and Betty are making — Not sure yet, but I’m thinking about these darling cakes in a jar — both Oscar and Betty love helping in the kitchen, so this might be a perfect fit. They could give an individual jar to each sibling. Links to what we’ve made in past years: Tutu, decoupaged bucket for matchbox cars, after-school bags, tiedye teesFlower headbandsWool mittens from recycled sweaters, embellished dragon mittens, sculpey bracelets, bibs, snowglobes and romper stompers made from cans  I hope you find these links and ideas helpful. What about you Dear Readers? Do your kids make gifts for their siblings? What are they making this year?  

Ask Design Mom — Dinner Help



Ask Design Mom Question:
Dear Design Mom, dinnertime and menu making is my nemesis. How do you handle your dinner planning? — Margo

Design Mom Answer:
Oh Margo. This is a question I should be asking. Dinner is my nemesis too! Tonight we ate spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread — so exotic. I have a few suggestions, but I’ll mostly leave this to my Dear Readers, who no doubt will give you excellent advice.

1) Look for blogs and websites that post weekly menus. My lovely sister-in-law Erin posts hers occasionally (all menu links are in her sidebar). And there are other great menu sites as well.

2) Look for recipe books that focus on fast or simple dinners. Martha Stewart just published one called Dinner at Home. Her company sent me a copy and the first recipe I tried was #3:

Roast Salmon and Potatoes
Mustard-Herb Butter
Haricots Verts with Tapenade

We used green beans instead of Haricots Verts and skipped the Tapenade, but otherwise, made it as directed and it was a big winner with the whole family. Plus, it really was easy and fast. Plus also, since it’s a Martha Stewart book, it’s really beautiful to look at.


Dear Readers, how do you handle meal-planning, menus and dinner ideas?

————–

Note from Design Mom:
Hey Friends! My inbox is still crazy full of Ask-Design-Mom questions. So instead of waiting a few months and then hosting another Ask-Design-Mom-Week, I thought I’d try dedicating Mondays to your questions. If I get feedback that no one is into it, I’ll definitely rethink. — kisses, Gabrielle

For the Holidays



Look at the dress we found for Betty at Target on Saturday. So luxe looking, no? I love the peter pan collar — I put Betty’s hair up when she wore the dress to show it off. I’m impressed with the lining, considering the price. And it was a bargain.
If you have a toddler-size girl running around your house right now, you should go buy one right this minute. Before they run out.



Ask Design Mom Week — Baby Names



Question:
I’m wondering about baby names. I love love love your kids names and wonder where you got them. Is there a story behind each one or are they just favorites? Also, do you have any favorite resources for baby name finding? Ideas for baby #6? Thanks!Sarah

photo credit here

Answer:

For Ben Blair and I, baby names have sometimes come easily and sometimes taken forever to decide. What we look for: well-recognized names (not invented ones), easy to pronounce, possibly fallen out of fashion — so that they’re relatively unusual. If they have family connection, that’s even better. Our baby name stories in brief:

-During my first pregnancy, once we knew it was a boy, he was instantly Ralph Wallace Blair. Ralph is my dad’s dad. Wallace is Ben’s dad’s dad (and Ben’s middle name). We really liked the name Ralph. And my father passed away while I was pregnant with Ralph, so we like honoring his family.

-Once Ralph was picked, we felt like our future kids’ names should fit with it — maybe come from the same time or generation. We decided on the name Maude at a family funeral on Ben’s side of the family, where we discovered it on two family gravestones (Ben’s great grandmother and great aunt). At the last minute we added Emma as a middle name, because there was some nervousness that the name Maude would be too unusual. So she’s Maude Emma Blair. (Sometimes we regret the Emma. It’s a little random.)

-The name Olive we found in a book. It was the name of the mother of a great man (can not remember for the life of me what the book was). I could imagine two old ladies named Maude and Olive playing canasta at a card table and I knew it fit. Olive’s full name is Olive Jean Blair. Jean is my mother’s middle name and a popular name on Ben’s side of the family as well.

-Oscar was suggested by our friends. It was on their short list, but they ended up not using it. The full name is Oscar Stanley Groberg Blair. (Stanley is my maiden name. Groberg is Ben’s Mom’s maiden name.) Once, someone (mis)heard the name and said, wow, Oscar and Grover? You guys must really love Sesame Street.

-I have no memory of where or when we decided on the name Betty. But we deliberately did not give her a middle name. Because Betty Blair sounds so great — like the name of the alter ego of a superhero.

-We don’t know what we’re naming baby #6. We’ve decided we won’t even think about it till we know if it’s a boy or a girl. Any suggestions?

I’d love to hear your name stories, Dear Readers. How do you come up with names? What are your favorite name sources?

Ask Design Mom Week — Teacher Gifts



Question:
I need help with an idea! I’m on the PTA hospitality committee and we do Christmas gifts for all the teachers and staff (about 70 people — men and women). We are struggling to come up with an idea for this year — our budget is very limited (about $200 – TOTAL). In the past we’ve done: homemade caramel apples, white chocolate popcorn, Christmas potpourri…. Do you have any craft or cooking ideas for us? — Thanks, Cherie’




Answer:
Hi Cherie! Here’s the first thing to come to my mind. Last Christmas, my friends Laura and Lisa made homemade vanilla extract (you know, like you’d use in baking) and packaged it in charming little bottles. I’ve been wanting to try the same idea for ages! In addition to vanilla extract, they also made vanilla sugar, vanilla almonds and lip gloss too. You can find more photos and instructions (and label pdfs!) here. Between those 4 ideas, hopefully everyone on your list will be covered. But if not, I’m sure my super smart readers will have tons more suggestions.

Dear Readers, what would you do if you were Cherie and needed to find gifts (on a limited budget) for teachers and staff at your school?

Ask Design Mom Week — Family Christmas Gift



Question:
My husband’s family always draws names for gift giving. This year we are gifting to his sister’s family; they have six kids and a total of eight people. (Which made me think of you ;)). I’m wondering if you know of any good gift ideas that the whole family could enjoy, or perhaps a something we could get for each family member that wouldn’t break the bank. The kids range in age from 3-14. Thanks!Lynnette



Answer:
Another great question. My family picks names as well. One of the favorite gifts we’ve ever received was a collection of Nativity Dress-ups my sister put together from thrift store finds. It’s awesome. And really good for a wide range of ages. You can see my post about it here.

Dear Readers, I’m sure you have tons of good suggestions for Lynnette. What do you like to give for “family” gifts?

Ask Design Mom Week — Family Pictures

Question: What is your advice for taking a great family picture? (Note: I do not wish to have a statuesque portrait of my toddler and newborn in khaki and white on the beach — this is a real family picture. So lets keep it real.) Thanks. — Leslie Answer: Loving all these questions! And this is no exception, Leslie. We should probably turn to a photographer to answer this one, but I’ll do my best. 1) Take the time to find a great photographer. Look through portfolios. Keep your eye open for someone who’s style you like. I love my family photos by Candace Stringham. I love Jared & Liz’s family photos by Jonathon Canlas. I love my portrait by Justin Hackworth. And I love Nie’s family photos by Blue Lily. But all have very different styles. 2) Once you’ve scheduled a date with a photographer, take some time to think about what you want. Talk over your ideas and plans with the photographer. Or look to them for guidance. You may want to discuss whether or not you need a photo stylist. Here’s a post I wrote about getting ready for our Central Park photo shoot. 3) As far as family photo trends go, this is what I’ve observed: 10 or 15 years ago it was all about matching denim shirts. (Awesome!) Then. DSLR cameras became more affodrable and thus widespread. Suddenly, everyone was a photographer. And family photos trended to candid, up close shots — photographed by your best friend or neighbor. What’s happening now? A more editorial style — as if the family photo is being shot for your favorite magazine. My main advice for right this minute: feel free to pick a color scheme, but you don’t need to wear matching shirts. Unless you’re going for this look. Which is admittedly rad (I’m #7). What about you, Dear Readers? What do you do to ensure great family photos?

Ask Design Mom Week — Holiday Card Display



Question:
I have been looking online everywhere. Do you know the metal alligator clip stands with multiple clips that form a tree like shape when cards are hung on it? I remember seeing them in a catalog from last season but was too late to purchase and am hoping to get a jump on it this year. Thanks for any shopping help! — Amy



Answer:
Dear Readers, do you know exactly what Amy is looking for? Do you know a source? Please share. In the meantime, Amy, take a look at this aluminum multi-clip hanger from Muji. They offer 3 different versions and they’re made to hang accessories in your closet. But wouldn’t they work well for holiday cards?

Do These 3 Things Early in November

Question: I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year. Any tips to make it less stressful? — Rebecca Answer: Great question! There are a few things I like to do in late October or early November to help my Thanksgiving prep. 1) Get my kitchen knives sharpened. Your guests will likely be helping you in the kitchen. You won’t want them using crummy tools. 2) Take inventory of your dinnerware/china and utensils. Do you have enough place settings for all your guests? Have you lost a few random spoons over the last year? (Spoons are notorious for getting thrown out with yogurt cups or lost in the sandbox.) If you have any gaps to fill in, this is the time to place your orders. I’ll be adding more silverware this year — my preferred pattern is Old Denmark by Yamazaki. 3) Ask guests if there are any particular foods or recipes that will make or break Thanksgiving for them and add those recipes to your menu. For example, personally, I have a particular veggie dip that I’m totally homesick for if I don’t get a bite at Thanksgiving. What about you Dear Readers? What are your best tips for preparing for Thanksgiving?

Running for Office — 5th Grade Edition



Maude, our 5th grader, recently ran for student council. Our school in New York didn’t offer student council, so this was our first opportunity to try something like this.


Maude was allowed to make 1 poster-board size poster. And give one speech. Here’s our report on both. These ideas worked well (she was elected!) and would be a good fit for 4th, 5th or 6th grade. Feel free to use the ideas if you have the need.



The Poster
I was out of full sheets of poster board, but I had a stack of orange poster board sections from a previous project (bonus point for using up what we had), so we pieced those together with lengths of ribbon to make a full-size poster. The sections broke up the space nicely and ultimately inspired the poster content.

We started with Maude writing her name in her regular handwriting. Then we thickened that up to make it something we could use as a template and cut out. We cut out 3 “maudes” from additional posterboard scrap, sprayed them with a light coat of spraymount and completely covered them with glitter (from the Martha Stewart collection — my all-time favorite glitter). We attached the names to the sections with double-sided tape.

On the 3rd-panel, in her own handwriting, Maude wrote little slogans about herself. Some rhymed with Maude (Maude is not flawed). Some didn’t.



The Speech
Before we started working on this, we assessed the situation. What had Maude heard? What kind of speeches were typical? From what we could gather, the legendary speech that her classmates still talked about was given by a boy who showed up with a bunch of helium balloons. He started by popping a balloon and saying: Now that I’ve got your attention… and continued to pop balloons throughout his speech. Knowing this was the pinnacle, we aimed to hit somewhere between balloon popping and reading the speech straight off a paper.

Here’s the transcript Maude ended up with:

I’d love to promise you, that if I get elected, homework will be abolished for the rest of the year! I’d love to promise that your favorite celebrities will visit our class. Like Taylor Swift and Carmelo Anthony!! I’d love to promise that each of you will get a million dollars!!!

But I can’t.

What I can promise, is that I’ll work hard, attend my meetings and give my best ideas.

To show you how dedicated I’ll be as your student council rep, I’m going to put 26 marshmellows in my mouth — one for each of you. Please count with me.

[Maude then proceeds to put full-size marshmallows in her mouth. She can only fit 3. At which point she puts her hand up in a stop motion and spits the marshmallows in a paper bag.]

Let’s try this again.

[Maude then pulls out a bag of mini-marshmallows, and the class counts with her as she stuffs her mouth with 26 mini-marshmallows. When she reaches 26, she spits them into the same paper bag.]

Thanks, everybody! Vote for Maude!!

Initials



So the question has come up: how’d we transport all the goodies from Broad Summit? A good question. Which leads nicely into my final summit report (no really, this is my last post about it, I promise). There are two answers to the question: Totebags. And Toyotas.


Each attendee was given a personalized totebag from Lands’ End so they could haul their lovely gifties home. The bags are ginormous. And I totally have a thing for ginormous totebags — you know, roomy enough for beach towels or blankets, plus food, plus a camera bag, plus all the things your children are likely to collect on any given outing. So I lurve my new bag. I used mine as my carry-on during the flight home. I was wearing navy and stripes and the red looked totally awesome with my outfit. (Because red + navy is yummy.)


To haul the peoples around, Toyota lent us a fleet of their prettiest cars. I did most of my driving in a Highlander and a Sienna (with Laurie and Jordan and Megan and Dorothy). Both cars are very roomy. And extra-nice for me, I was able to see some of the friends I’d made at the Toyota Studio Tour last year — including Jean Aw of NotCot. Whom I adore. At one point, Jean, who attends far more techy-ish events (and far fewer girly events like the summit) said something like: Geez. I can’t believe all the camera equipment attendees brought to the summit — the tech companies should be targeting this crowd…




Question inspired by the initials on my totebag: How many of you weren’t given a middle name when you were born? And related question: How many of you have not given middle names to your own children?


I’m so curious. I didn’t have a middle name while growing up. I was Gabrielle Stanley. And then when I married, I (conveniently) took Stanley as my middle name. I didn’t think not having a middle name was that unusual, but at the summit, the topic came up and I was
the only one out of 30 that didn’t have a middle name as a child.

Halloween Books

I feel like we haven’t added Halloween books to our stash in ages, so this year I ordered a few. (As I’ve described in years past, during the month of October, we like to light candles each night and ready Halloween books or spooky stories. This year we even have a fireplace (woot!). It totally heightens the drama.) The books we added this year: Bone Soup. A Halloween themed retelling of Stone Soup. Instead of carrots and potatoes, the townspeople eventually share their stewed eyeballs and jars of batwings. The illustrations are the best part. My kids love this. By the Light of the Halloween Moon. A rebus by Caroline Stutson. Simple and repetitive. My preschoolers especially like this. Once Upon a Halloween Night. This is a chapter book. I was looking for something the older kids would like. We’re still not done with it yet, but so far so good. You can find links to some of our other favorites here. What are your favorite Halloween books?

Old & New Friends



I have a couple more Broad Summit posts before I’ve absolutely exhausted the topic. Today I’m thinking about friends I’ve spent time with before — like
Melissa Summers and Chris Jordan. And friends I was excited to meet for the first time in real life — like Asha Dornfest, Kelly Wilkinson (who was my first Guest Aunt once upon a time), Mimi Smartypants and Zan McQuade.

This was true of sponsors too. Some were companies I’ve been a fan of for ages — like
Flickr. And some I’m excited to get to know — like Typekit. I thought Typekit’s presentation was especially cool. They offered all attendees a year long subscription to their font service (I’m really looking forward to trying this out). And because it’s hard to wrap up something like an internet service subscription, they attached the card to rustic metal letters. G is for Gabrielle.

Pumpkin Cookies

Made a batch of pumpkin cookies last night and ate them by the fire. Doesn’t get much better than that. (I like mine sans chocolate chips. So I usually make half the batch with and half without.) Edit: My apologies for not including the recipe when I first published the post. Here it is. I hope you love it. ——————————- Old-Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies I found the recipe years ago at verybestbaking.com 2 1/2 cups flour 1 tsp baking soda 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp nutmeg 1/2 tsp salt 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) softened 1 cup 100% pumpkin (you can find cans of this in the pie-filling section of the grocery store) 1 egg 1 tsp vanilla Glaze (see below) Optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips or nuts. Preheat oven to 350. Grease baking sheets. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and set aside. Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle glaze over cookies. For Glaze: Combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tsp vanilla in small bowl until smooth.

Preserving Children’s Artwork — by Guest Mom Carrie Lundell



Who doesn’t love their child’s drawings? Many children express themselves through art far better than the written or even spoken word, so the attachment is understandable. Yet who among us hasn’t thought about chucking every last piece of art when the pile coming home from school, added to what is created at home, threatens to take over every inch of the refrigerator door and fill every drawer in the house?


Here’s the million-dollar question: what is worth keeping and what gets tossed (during the night and placed in the outside garbage under mounds of food scraps so there is no evidence of the cruel mommy who doesn’t think every piece of her child’s art is beautiful and worth saving)? Here’s what I do:



1. Display the Art
Even for just a day. If your child is proud of their artwork, show it off. Right now, we use simple magnet clips on the side of the fridge. For a cleaner presentation, this company produces frames that open on hinges, allowing you to swap out your child’s art easily and often. Just last week I came upon this ingenious DIY frame with the same purpose and I like it even more. A cute little clothesline like this works famously too.


2. You Save, I Save
Each of my children gets their own “treasure box.” They are allowed to keep anything they want in their box, but it must fit in the box. New art often replaces old art in their boxes as they constantly work to make sure the lid stays on the box. I also have my own acid-free “treasure box” for each of them and hold myself to the same rule — I can’t save more than what will fit in the box. I save only the most special drawings. They are usually the ones with good stories attached, or where it’s obvious my child has spent more than her usual attention span, and I always save “firsts”. Like the first time my child drew a circle with arms growing out of the sides and called it “mom” instead of the typical scribbles.



3. Preserve with a (re)Purpose
Preserving your child’s art in an acid-free box is one thing, but using it as inspiration to create something else takes preservation to a whole new level. My children love seeing their art come to life as “softies”, handkerchief embroidery, carved pumpkins, personalized neckties, t-shirt transfers, and Christmas ornaments. I will admit the time I spend creating with their art might partly be my way of making up for the fact that I throw the majority of their artwork in the trash. If sewing is not your thing, this company creates sterling silver pins out of your child’s art and this shop will turn their art into a sweet little pendant, both perfect for gifting.




Whatever you decide to save, make sure to write the child’s name and date on it.Also, remember to record and attach “the story” if it has one. It’s all going to be vital information down the road. You always think you’ll remember, but you won’t.


Thanks to Gabrielle for having me here this week. I’ve had a great time sharing with all of you! I hope you’ll take the time to create, preserve and share your family heirlooms.

Putting Heirlooms to Good Use — by Guest Mom Carrie Lundell



Family heirlooms wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and stored safely away from sticky fingers in a cedar chest will easily last for the next 100 years, but the joy and meaning that comes from pulling treasured items out of storage and repurposing them for greater use in our lives is sometimes worth the risk of a slightly shorter heirloom “shelf-life”. Hopefully none of you think my ideas are akin to the horrors of painting a piano (which I love, BTW).


-Turn a piece of Grandma’s old china into a dessert stand to use at family special occasions.

-Can’t bear to part with a concert T full of memories from your youth? Let it live on in all it’s glory as a newborn baby gown.

-Grandma’s sweet, old linens can be turned into beautiful Easter dresses.



-Think about splitting up Great Grandma’s unfinished quilt tops and turning them into numerous baby blankets, children’s clothes and even throw pillows.


-If you are lucky enough to have a hanky collector in your family, baby bonnets, curtains, and wall hangings are all great options for putting them to good use in a place besides your runny nose.

-Favorite childhood toys can become decor for your child’s room and stay protected when displayed in a shadow box.



-Avid crocheters will usually leave behind stacks of beautiful doilies that no one knows what to do with. Use them to accessorize clothing or integrate them into your home decor.


If you are not lucky enough to have these types of family heirlooms lying around (I have to supplement) but still have a hankering for a “family heirloom-esque” project, items from garage sales, estate sales and thrift stores can easily be substituted for any of the above. Not quite as meaningful, but fun nonetheless.



Find more of Carrie at This Momma Makes Stuff.

Les Petites Chefs Birthday Party Report



Seriously. It was a fantastic party! Really amazing. And it would have been equally great for girls or boys. If you live anywhere in the metro Denver area, bookmark Sticky Fingers — if not for a birthday party, then for their kids cooking classes — they are a class-act all the way around. Here’s the report:




About an hour before the guests arrived, Sticky Fingers showed up to prepare the space. They brought balloons. And the most colorful assortment of kid-friendly kitchen ware. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. (You can click the photos to see them bigger.)

Once the guests arrived, it was time to decorate chef hats. With stamps, stickers, markers, ribbons and every other sparkle-rific material.




When the chef hats were sufficiently glamorous, it was time to get down to cooking (after thorough hand-washing of course). The recipe was posted on an easel and the kids made the gnocchi from scratch. At each step, the Sticky Fingers girls gave kid-friendly, patient, cheerful instruction (“When you’re using a knife, make a bridge with your hand and then cut under the bridge…”). The guests measured ingredients. Cracked eggs. Grated cheese. Mixed. Kneaded. Rolled and formed. (For those of you who are worriers, please note that there were at least 3 additional hand-washing sessions throughout the cooking process.)




While the gnocchi boiled, they worked in teams using morters and pestles to crush lavender, then mix it with honey, oil and vinegar for the pasta topping.



The gnocchi finished cooking just as the dressing was complete. Then it was time to feast. It was a pretty exotic meal as far as kid food goes — Parmesan and Ricotta Gnocchi over Peaches with Prosciutto and Parmesan plus Honey Lavender Dressing. But the guests loved it!




As everyone finished their meal, we brought out the pretty cupcakes and sang Happy Birthday.




For party favors, Sticky Fingers brought laminated recipe cards featuring Olive’s special recipe. And we included ruffle-y aprons as well (Bonus: I went to Jo-Ann’s to pick up fabric to make aprons, but found these cute red and white ones for $2.50 each. Yay! Because, really, I was out of time and not looking forward to a late night sewing aprons…)

While we opened presents, the Sticky Fingers girls cleaned up every last crumb and loaded up their car. (Best part of hiring out your party!) Olive was super pleased with the whole thing. So were the guests. So was I.

Loads more photos here.


Olive’s Les Petites Chefs Party



I’m really looking forward to Olive’s birthday party this weekend. It’s going to be a busy day — Olive will have her party in the morning, and then be baptized in the afternoon. It’s a double whammy. Although I love putting on fun parties for my kids, I am so lucky I found Sticky Fingers to handle things this weekend — the double event has me feeling too crazy to give the party as much attention as I’d like.


These are the options Sticky Fingers offered for the party activities:

Choose your meal.
• Four Seasons Pizza: roll out honey-wheat dough and personalize with seasonal toppings
• Gnocchi-n-Cheese: squeeze it, roll it, top it! Ricotta gnocchi dressed with a creamy, cheesy pesto sauce and an assortment of seasonal toppings is decadently delicious!
• Upside-Down Pasta and Tomato Sauce: fresh tomatoes, basil and cheese, topped with warm pasta to create better-than-ever spaghetti.
• Noodles & Soup: practice your (butter) knife skills on tofu for your miso soup, peel carrots for a soba noodle salad, then sit down with some chopsticks to the messiest meal of the bunch!

Choose your craft.
• Pasta Art: decorate and string fun pasta shapes onto ribbon to create bracelets, necklaces, bookmarks, & more!
• “I’m the Chef” Placemats: personalize a special placemat that’s yours to use each time you help with dinner! Placemats feature fun mealtime games and will be laminated once decorated.
• One-of-a-Kind Chef Hats: add your own unique flourish to a special white chef’s hat that lets everyone know who’s in charge in the kitchen!
• Cupcake Decorating: a classic birthday treat becomes even more delightful when decorated just as you wish with colored frosting and fun toppings!

Choose a cupcake flavor.
Pick from the many delightful daily and rotating flavors available from Happy Cakes Bakeshop, our
cupcake partner!

Olive picked the gnocchi, the chef hats and vanilla-flavored cupcakes. Perfect. Basically, that means my only responsibilities are invitations, decorations (if we choose to do anything in addition to the balloons Sticky Fingers are bringing — I’m hoping to use the Cricut tonight to make up some garlands), and party favors. And let’s be honest, those 3 tasks are my favorite parts of planning a party. I think it’s going to be great!

You can find out more about Sticky Fingers parties and classes here.

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