Archive for May, 2009

Flag Day

My memories of elementary school are nothing but carefree snippets of amazing recess trends, Hot Cheetos-addictions and dorky class projects. The funny thing is that at that exact moment in time, we all felt like we were so grown-up and sophisticated. My paper bag Indian vest for the Thanksgiving party in 1st grade ruled and don’t even get me started on my career bear. Over dinner yesterday evening, a friend asked how my baby brother was doing. As we started talking about his latest Kindergarten fiascos, we all agreed that we wouldn’t mind being that age again. When you get a taste of the real world, 3 pages of homework, kickball and cookies sounds like heaven.

I was just looking at the calendar and I realized that Flag Day is almost a couple of days away. I burst out laughing when I remembered the Flag Day program we would put on in elementary school every year. The girl that wore the Statue of Liberty costume would walk across the stage as if she really had a torch in her hand and Yankee Doodle eerily came alive and tripped half way across the stage while 20 of us would wave plastic flags in the background.

Although these memories only make me realize how silly and fun it is to be a kid, I can also see that these hilarious shows really did teach us about patriotism and being grateful for our freedoms. America has come a long way and although we’re going through a rough patch right now, things could be worse. There are places that dictate how many children you can have and what media content can air on your TV.

This year, take a moment to reflect on the positives and negatives of being an American. Many schools put on festive programs in honor of the flag during this time and I’m sure teachers would be very appreciative of Flags and patriotic decorations. When some teachers take money out of their own pocket to incorporate participation and lessons in spite of their low salaries, I’m sure any parent donations would help. :-D

Father’s Day Picnic

Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, is also fairly new holiday (also established in the 20th Century) that was created to pay tribute to Fathers and male parenting. This special day was established to complement Mother’s Day, as both parent figures are important in any family and/or child’s life. The holiday wasn’t very popular as a serious commemoration at first, but it has grown to be regarded pretty highly in time.

My father and I have our moments—moments when we want to tear each other’s necks apart and moments when we’re grateful for each other. It’s hard to see a parent’s point of view when you yourself don’t have any children of your own, but it’s easy to appreciate those hard learned lessons as you grow older. Now, I look back to the early high school years and I cringe at the teenager that thought she was on top of the world with an infinite amount of wisdom in her back pocket. In that moment, it’s hard to be grateful to your parents for creating restrictions that throw you into “the depths of despair.” Five years later, I know you’ll be smiling because that “absurd curfew” made a difference in your present.

This year, don’t stress so much about what to buy your dad for Father’s Day. I’ve found that the gifts my dad holds most precious are the customized ones that show some thought and sincerity. One year, I got him a stainless steel coffee mug with a picture of him with us 7 girls at Disneyland and a fairytale quote he uses as his blessing for us every evening. It’s not hard to put a smile on their faces if you know their weakness ;) .

So instead of going crazy trying to figure out how make you father’s day, plan a casual family picnic where even the little ones (if applicable) can contribute. That way, the younger children can feel like they’re party of the celebration as well. If your picnic will not be at home in the backyard, pack a yummy lunch, a baseball and some bats and park your basket on a bench at the park. Just spend time with the old man.

If you want to dress up the bench, score some Picnic Party Supplies that will make the snacking arena effortlessly party ready.

Day-cation Creation

It’s not secret that time and time again, Americans have been diagnosed with a condition that causes extreme shopping episodes. It’s serious. So serious, that the majority of the country is begging for lifesavers in the sea of recession.

Speaking of seas, oceans and paradise, vacation season is here and I’m sure most of you have felt the urge to plan that annual vacation. The only problem is we’re all watching our pocketbooks down to the dime these days. This year, the sensible thing to do is to take time to plan day-cations and work with what we’ve got. Being practical isn’t much fun, but it may be the only way to stay afloat for some time.

Every summer, when my cousins from the Midwest come to visit, I get slightly irritated when I ask them what they’d like to do (it’s their vacation after all) and all they ever answer is, “you’re the tour guide.” Turns out, most of us aren’t really tour guides in our own states. We’re so concerned with the mundane routine that governs over our daily lives that we don’t stop to explore our local surroundings. We can sure daydream about visiting all of those far off exotic places though.

Just because it’s a vacation doesn’t mean you have to go out of the state or the country. It’s all about changing up the daily routine. The fun part about making summer vacation a series of day-cations, is that every one can pick a different day to plan something fun they would like to do. If you’re stuck, get started on your brainstorming with this list of suggestions:

1.    Make a list of local zoos or aquariums & download their monthly calendars for a list of special summer events

2.    Two words: Theme Park

3.    Cultural Centers in the area (they could have cool shows)

4.    Beaches (if applicable), lakes, rivers

5.    Family Fun Centers

6.    & the most important one: Sleep In!!

Royal Birthday Boys

There is absolutely no way that there can be no “baby” in the family. If the child is an only child they’re destined to reap the benefits of being spoiled and pampered; on the other hand, the chain has to end somewhere. The baby in our family happens to have 8 older siblings who happen to have a weakness for: the Pookenator.

His birthday was yesterday and boy did he think he deserved the world. It was his special day (blah, blah), and we decided to keep his birthday party fun and simple. He plays T-ball so of course, we incorporated a baseball theme that him and his team pals would enjoy. The mother baked a cake and decked it out with a baseball scene. Younger boys tend to enjoy and/or participate in sports so a Sports Themed party is not a novel idea.

We used metallic balloons with a baseball print to add a festive mood to the team’s snack area. Although it wasn’t a birthday party we planned weeks in advanced with invitations and the whole deal, the little gathering was a perfect way to end this “All-Star’s” t-ball season.

When in doubt, sports are usually a safe bet. Think back and smile at the time when a stray ball made them happy. Nowadays, they turn six and they want those crazy gadgets that cost you an arm and a leg only for the latest gadget to be out 10 minutes later.

Wedding Anniversaries on Budgets

‘Tis the season…for everything.

It seems like there are those months just crowded with annual events like birthdays, weddings, and baby showers. All happy occasions are welcome, but sometimes they can take a toll on your wallet. Big families and social circles are great and overwhelming at the same time.

My parents’ 25th wedding anniversary is in December; however, planning milestone events like these should earn slots on your desk calendar as soon as yesterday. There are lists to make, people to call, food decisions, color choices and the list becomes a huge headache. I’ve found that the key thing in special moments like these is to keep it simple. Why invite your uncle’s-grandpa’s-aunt’s-kids when you can limit the guest list to the company of the people your guest(s) of honor actually enjoy?

Celebrations don’t need to be huge and over the top to be memorable and significant. There are so many economical ways to pay tribute to accomplishments like marriage anniversaries. I’ve found that my father is a major cheese-ball and my mother is all about not being in the spotlight. Dad loves personalized gifts with pictures and names – he adores t-shirts and ties with his children’s names on them. I’ve decided to incorporate his cheesiness in his anniversary decorations by making picture collages of him and my mom in a slide show or even possible under a glass top on tables.

Mom’s therapy is her rose garden. That woman’s happy as a clam with a huge bouquet—no need for lavish things. Simple centerpieces can add a very elegant touch to any table. There’s no need to hire anyone to make overpriced table decorations – anyone can go to the arts & crafts store, pick up some nice vases or glass bowls and candles. It really is all about just having the general idea and just going from there. Begin your brainstorming sessions with the basics –what lights up your parents’ faces?

“Set the mood for the food,” my boss always says. He’s right. The atmosphere and the party decorations definitely give your guests an idea of what kind of party to expect. If you’re aiming for something more sophisticated, but you don’t want to dip too far into your pocket, try disposable tableware that looks like real china. My Paper Shop’s 25th Silver Wedding Anniversary party supplies make the perfect faux-china collection. :)

Remember. You’re not just throwing your parents a party. You’re acknowledging their determination and love for each other. Nowadays, when the divorce rate could quite possibly be so vast that it could be labeled an epidemic, it’s even more important to celebrate a marriage that is longer than a year. So, pop open a fine bottle of wine/champagne and remind them to be thankful for each other.

Baking, Bonding & Other -ings

Is it baking if it’s out of a box? Or must it be the whole something from nothing deal? I say, if you have to crack an egg and wipe frosting off unusual locations, then you’re baking. I just baked about three batches of cupcakes and broke the creative box in my brain in an attempt to brighten a friend’s birthday tomorrow.

Although the outcome was cute, the process was the best. The evening I planned just consisted of whipping up a dozen cupcakes quickly, but one of my minions (also known as a sibling) insisted on helping with the decoration process. We ended up making a whole color palette of frosting with food coloring, which we used to make an entire garden scene out of cupcakes.

It was a lot of work, and with it came a lot of laughing, goofing, wiping and cleaning. It started with just the two of us, my medium minion and me, and then the rest of the flock (there’s 9 of us) started appearing randomly like roses in the spring. The evening turned into a hilarious compilation of “ohhhh you should put eyes right here” and “sprinkles, where are the sprinkles?!” The sprinkle comment somehow sparked some sort of silly verbal discussion about chickens and cows and the evening erupted in eons of laughter.

Those moments are my favorite and they always end up in that secret treasure chest.

So, points to remember:

1.    Betty Crocker out of the box is always easier than Betty Crocker in measuring cups

2.    Presentation, Presentation, Presentation: Cupcake Boxes – always find a cute container that says something about the person for which you’ve “baked”! :-D

Summer’s In the Air

May always strikes me as the month that acts like an adolescent with mixed feelings about virtually everything. It brings rain one day, wild winds the next and blazing heat the day after that. Every year I feel like wearing a raincoat with holes in it—a universal May-weather coat.

My little sister did her First Communion this past weekend and of course, we had to spoil her with some sort of celebration in her honor. The child took it a little too seriously and we ended up with a water slide and a backyard full of children…rowdy, wet and hungry children. Horrible combination.

My mother figured popsicles would be an easy, non-messy treat. Wrong.

I read in a magazine about a way to prevent popsicle drippings while turning it into a fun and enjoyable experience. The basis is to have a few pitchers of mint lemonade handy, pour it in cups and have the children dip their popsicles in it. Each child’s lemonade changes to the color and flavor of his/her popsicle the longer the popsicle is left in the glass. Children love pretending to be adults, why not have them make their own mocktails?

The point here is that May always hints at summer and some of us just don’t stop to smell the roses and the barbecue. This year, lets grab summer by the horns by being prepared with anti-headache solutions to sticky situations. ;-)

Green Tips-Do it for Mother Earth

I was never exactly one to follow trends because they were “in”; you can confirm with my awesome coworker though. I’m sure she won’t deny our strike against the trendy jackets in junior high. Where most girls were sporting those puffy jackets that looked semi-ridiculous in sunny Orange County, we were blatantly sporting neon colored jackets that blinded our classmates.

Aside from sporting blinding attire, we didn’t make much of a statement. Today, I am succumbing to the current global trend of “going green,” and hope many of you will join me. Although I most certainly am not the Queen of the Environmentalists, Mother Earth sort of is and Mother’s Day is coming up. I’m not asking for anyone to turn the litter bug switch off cold turkey.

Baby steps.

Below, I have prepared 4 tips for incorporating environmental consciousness into your everyday life:

1.    Single-stream Recycling

-    A system that allows all approved recyclable materials to be combined in one container

- Contact your local public works dept. to express interest in such a program

2.    Upcycling

-    Recycling on a larger schedule buy putting items in your household that you no longer use, to a different use (i.e. old sweaters into pillow covers)

-    Hey! My little sister turned an old sweatshirt into a lounging skirt. She still uses it for “laundry days” years later & we cannot get her out of it!

3.    Reduced Packaging

-   Try supporting companies and brands that only use environmentally friendly packaging

4.    Efficient Lighting

-    Saver Tip: replace incandescent bulbs in your home with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) [my father is an electrician, who would’ve thought his rants would come in handy? :) ]

-    Turn off lights in your home (or anywhere else) when they are not in use [turning lights off has become my OCD—it’s crazy!]

Just an FYI: MyPaperShop also offers environmentally party collections now: American Flag, Easter Melody, & Green Garden.

Monday Night Gossip

Only recently have “girl’s nights” become more & more prevalent, as opposed to “guy’s nights,” which used to be every night. What is with that crazy double standard following us all the way into the 21st Century, anyway?!

Regardless of the facts, it’s time to even the score, & do it while being conscious of the times. Most of us girls revel in those scarce evenings of juicy gossip, fruity drinks & appetizers—evenings that sometimes turn into unplanned sleepovers. While we love spending time with our significant others, we absolutely need our girls to share all those “unbelievable” things they do as well as relieving some of that pent up cattiness.

Yes, club nights are awesome & far too much fun, but nights in are so enjoyable. I love Monday nights! After a long day at work, I can relax & cozy on up to bed with my favorite TV show, Gossip Girl. My best friend & I adore cooking something yummy before this televised drama/gossip-packed little gem begins (you can always hit the pause button, too!). Although this little tradition my friend & I have going on is between the two of us, it would be fun to enjoy a TV Dinner Party with a couple other girlfriends.

We may not have maids like our favorite television stars, but we have two hands & what better way to catch up with old friends, than cooking up some appetizers? I found this recipe in Marie Claire & my friend & sisters absolutely loved it:

Shrimp Lollipops (serves 4)

Ingredients:

24 shrimp, deveined and butterflied

1 Inch gingers

2 cloves garlic

1 scallion, green party only

1 small bunch of cilantro

¼ cup canola oil, plus extra for cooking

Salt & Peppers

8 skewers

Grapefruit Segments and Boston lettuce for garnish

Serve on appropriate tableware, such as our new square paper plates! Get that sophisticated look for less.

Don’t feel guilty setting a night a week aside for you and your closest confidantes—guys have there sport nights, why can’t we categorize gossip as a sport?

The Sweet Transition

Fifteenth and sixteenth birthdays traditionally mark the transition of a girl’s life and the festivities that follow allow her parents to introduce her to society as a woman. These parties, to say the least, are a big deal. In Latin America, this transition is celebrated on the young woman’s 15th birthday and the large party is called a Quinceañera. In the United States, this transition is celebrated on the girl’s 16th birthday and the party is called a Sweet Sixteen. In Jewish tradition, bat mitzvah’s mark this transition as well. Although the celebration age may be different, it’s safe to say the theme of the party is pretty universal.

These parties can range anywhere from a simple dinner party at a home or a restaurant to some exclusive and rather lavish events. The important thing to keep in mind about these milestone birthdays is the significance of the age. More often than not, these extravagant parties are jam-packed with traditions that indicate this major change, such as the moment when the father switches out his daughter’s flat-soled shoe for a high heel. When parents brush shoulders with their children on a daily basis, sometimes it is difficult to really stand back and realize the babies are all grown up. Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard though, they’ll “always” be your little girls.

Fifteenth and Sixteenth birthday parties are landmark events that have created so much hype that the media took advantage and created a very popular show, “My Super Sweet Sixteen.” Although I don’t have children of my own quite yet, I can fear for my life in advance.

Never fear MyPaperShop-pers, we are here to offer some partyware-ish support. Our Teen Birthday Party Supplies offer a few resources, at a not so mind-boggling price, that may help you make your teen-zilla’s day special. Go on, shop at your own risk. :)

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