Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happy 2nd Birthday Caitlin!

Our little girl turned 2 a little over a week ago, on the 14th! I'm still in disbelief.  I actually sobbed several times the day of Caitlin's birthday because I just couldn't believe my little girl is 2 already.  If the first 2 years went by that quickly, I don't want to know how fast the rest of my life will pass.
I felt so out of control.
Me 2 years ago (March 10, 2012).  Wait, are you trying to tell me this photo wasn't taken yesterday?!

But enough about me.
Caitlin had 2 birthday celebrations to celebrate the big 2!
She had an intimate dinner and cake with the grandparents the Sunday before her birthday, and a pizza party playdate with Caitlin's little friends the Sunday after her birthday.

At the grandparents house, I brought over Thai food take-out and my sister brought over good ol' Kee Wah Bakery strawberry cake.  Lots of eating and hanging out, the way a birthday should be!

For Caitlin's party with her friends, I was initially reluctant to throw a party because I'm terrible at hosting parties.  I get all anxious at the thought of having to entertain a lot of people together at one time and figuring out the guest list is always a big point of stress for me too.  After some convincing from friends, I decided to throw a party, initially called a "glorified playdate".  But knowing me, if I do something, I gotta do it right! I had to throw the best 2-year-old party ever.  I needed to have good entertainment and good food!  We just recently fixed up our backyard so our yard was the perfect venue to host the playdate party.
I rented a Sesame Street bouncy house (it was harder than I thought to find Sesame Street) for our "main attraction".  Caitlin's new playhouse and Cozy Coupe were also fun toys that kids could enjoy at her party.
I stopped by the local Dollar Tree and Party City and picked up all my party supplies: bubbles for party favors, party favor bags, table cloths, construction paper, and mylar balloons.  Party finger food was from Costco and Trader Joes (veggie sticks and dip, hummus, fruit salad, rice crackers, pretzels, potato chips, goldfish crackers, vegan "chicken" tenders, and butter noodles) and pizza was from Pamore's.  Drink selections (from costco) included bottled water, coca cola, Hansens soda, and Fruitables juice boxes (fruit and veggies in every box!).  I borrowed 2 tables from my sister.  Every thing else you saw at my party was stuff I already had around the house.
My good friend and I spent all of Saturday (the day before the party) making awesome Cookie Monster and Elmo cakes and cupcakes.  Everyone was impressed with our cakes.  We should really be bakers.  I tried to keep the Sesame Street theme tasteful and not too over the top.  I got a lot of ideas and inspiration from Pinterest.
The party was at 4pm on Sunday so I assigned Jeff the task of getting Caitlin out of the house Sunday morning so I could finish last minute party details and also to wear Caitlin out, to ensure that she takes a good long nap before the party.  Jeff took Caitlin to Noah's Ark at Skirball (which she loved, and ended up taking at 2.5 hour nap!), while I worked on the veggie platter, fruit salad, waited for the bouncy house delivery guy and picked up 9 mylar balloons.  My good friend arrived at 2pm to work on backyard buffet table set up and any other last minute details.  I assigned my sister to take pictures and bring serving spoons, and my brother in law the task of picking up pizza at 5:15pm.  It takes a village to make a glorified playdate party happen! hehe! 

Overall, I think the party went well. People were well fed, the turnout was great (about 40 people), kids were entertained, and Caitlin had the best day of her life.  I know Caitlin won't remember this day and has yet to understand the concept of birthdays, but I know that she had a great time and she knew that we did something very special for her.  That is good enough for me.

Birthday Cake with the Lin Grandparents

The cakes my good friend and I made. It took us 6 hours to frost them:
We had to make 2 extra trips to the store to get more food coloring and I was *this* close to giving up and buying grocery store sheet cake.  I'm glad we didn't.
I also made these cupcake tiers out of 3 different sized paper plates with a paper cup glued in between each plate.  Convenient and disposable!
From Caitlin's 2nd Birthday

Party Favors  I made these Elmo and Cookie Monster bags!
(homemade sesame street bubbles and Albertson's chocolate chip cookies in each bag):
From Caitlin's 2nd Birthday

the homemade sesame street bubbles that went in the party favor bags

Sesame Street Bouncy House
From Caitlin's 2nd Birthday

Cake and birthday song
From Caitlin's 2nd Birthday

The Good Lookin' Family!
From Caitlin's 2nd Birthday

View the entire album here:
Caitlin's 2nd Birthday

I will write up a 2nd-year Caitlin review blog post on our Raising A Family blog very soon!  Don't think I have forgotten!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Our backyard -- playthings for Caitlin

Just when I was all done writing about the improvements to our backyard, turns out, there is more!

During a trip to Costco to do some returns and pick up some bananas, we came across a kid playhouse and a kid bench on display.  Caitlin absolutely loved playing with the playhouse and even ended up locking out some other costco kids that wanted to play in it.  Solid cedar wood, fits 5 kids, even comes with a play kitchen, for $280... we knew we had to get it!
There was a matching toddler picnic bench for an additional $85 so we went ahead and got that too!

Yeah. that was probably the worst case of impulse buys ever.

It wasn't until we reached our Camry, with our recent purchases in tow, that we realized we couldn't drive everything home!  There is no way the playhouse would fit in the trunk...
I've had enough Ikea-furniture-buying experiences combined with more-hours-than-I'm-willing-to-admit Tetris experience that I was able to get all the pieces of the playhouse into the trunk, backseat, and front seat of the car.  Of course, that meant that Jeff had to drive home with the trunk slightly open and tied down with a rope.  And that also meant that Caitlin and I had no where to sit!  While Caitlin and I killed time in the local Albertsons, Jeff drove all the furniture home, unloaded everything into the driveway, then drove back and picked up me and mini me.

The playhouse had.. a ton of pieces..
The manual said that it will take 2 adults 8-10 hours to build.  We spent the following week building the playhouse.. a couple of hours at a time.  Some nights, we were were up until 1 am working on the playhouse.  We had a deadline to get it finished by the following weekend, because we had cousins coming over with their kids.  10 hours later, we got it done!
After that, Jeff and I put the bench together -- took less than 30 minutes.

Our yard looks playdate (and birthday party celebration) ready!!
 the playhouse's pieces.  Not picture are the itty bitty tiny pieces
 Daddy's little helper
the playhouse is complete!

building the bench!

Our yard looks absolutely amazing and kid friendly!
Caitlin's in this picture.  Can you help me find her?

Ok, so this isn't related to the backyard, but it's related to the new playthings that Caitlin recently acquired.
I noticed that Caitlin has always had an interest in play kitchens but I have a hard time throwing down $90 on a play kitchen for her.  Especially when I think she will lose interest in a few weeks.
Instead, I collected some large cardboard boxes, covered then in contact paper, glued on some old milk caps, built cardboard some racks/shelves.. and VOILA! Caitlin has her very own cardboard kitchen.  All the supplies cost me under $5 since most things were things I already had around the house. 
I gotta admit.. I even impressed myself!
Caitlin absolutely loves this kitchen.  She totally ditches her Legos now, and would rather "cook" in her kitchen.