Saturday, February 28, 2009

Children's Party Activities

How I love a carousel, however, unless there is one in your area, you probably aren't going to be having one for your child's birthday. I'm not going to recommend going all out and hiring bouncing castles in your backyard, or petting zoos, clowns, and the like. I am all about simple fun that is achievable and memorable.

Do you realize how easy it is to make a maze out of haybales or cartons? Really easy and fun, if you are using cartons, you could get your children to paint them beforehand so you have a colourful and zany maze, it doesn't have to be too big, just enough to be interesting and don't forget to have something fun in the centre, perhaps a table of toffee apples, or cupcakes.

If you don't want to spend a small fortune booking a petting zoo, you could still use any connections you have in the local area, perhaps someone with a pet donkey, or a pony who will come to give rides for your guests.

Before eating, get the children to sit at the tables you have laid out to make their own party hats. If you have old christmas cracker crowns or pre cut your own crown designs, the children can apply pictures, ribbons, sequins, buttons, feathers, or stick on gems to their heart's content using simple paste. You might need another parent to help make this run smoothly but I think it is a good group activity as no one wins a prize, everyone gets to make their own hat that they can take home.

I bet you grew up with pin the tail on the donkey, pass the parcel, and musical chairs, so I don't need to explain them. I do find they can cause some squabbling, and not everyone can win.... so I like things like treasure hunts, where each child is only looking for their coloured counters or marbles, which are then cashed in for a set amount of booty - ie, no one child can get the lion share of treats, while others miss out, each child can only get a set amount. If one child is having trouble looking they can always ask for help, but not at the expense of their treasure, they still get all their treats.

You could try a caterpillar, snail, or frog race for a boys party (or girls if they are that way inclined) you only need to mark the number of lanes, you could do this with coloured yarn, texta, or paint depending on the race surface.

For girls you could perhaps have nail polish manicures (depending on age), or temporary hair colour sprays (ask other parents before the party if they mind their child having punky hair streaks for a day or two).

I still have the photo of the human pyramid we made for my 13th birthday, and of course, posing for photos is a must, and will use up a nice chunk of time.

I love bubbles, so you could let the kids go to town with bubble blowing out in the garden, another great photo opportunity.

If you have karaoke or playstation singstar, girls seem to like this a lot, and it is good, safe fun. Dance lessons are a good activity too, you could book a hip hop dance instructor for an hour, or buy an instructional dvd (if your living room is big enough).

Pinatas are easily made using crepe paper or you can buy premade ones at Spotlight, Kmart, and other stores. Of course the birthday child gets to crack it open but you can put the party favour bags for all the children inside, with their names printed on them, so no one misses out.

I hope these ideas have inspired you, I will likely have another post like this in the future as new trends come along. Some ideas are timeless though, and I like to encourage good, safe, simple, fun.

Love Starry

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mum's 70th Birthday

No, don't wish her a happy birthday, I am just remembering this day as it was the first family party I was solely responsible for planning and hostessing. It was in July of 2007.
A winter party.... that meant hot food, plenty of tea and coffee but with soft drink for the teenagers. I had to even out the oven temperature between contradictory recipe heat requirements and adjust the time to suit.... I like brain work so making the timetable for that was strangely fun. As was making the shopping lists.
The cake, well, I wanted mum to have a unique cake, not the traditional chocolate that we each have for our days, and not the fruitcake with orchid icing that marks a special birthday. Something that said it was a cake for my mother. This is what I did. I made two large sponge cakes and sliced them into four layers each (if you know what I mean). On a golden foil covered cake board I assembled my apricot cream sponges into one super cake(the layers of the two separate cakes pushed together). The bottom layer had apricot jam and cream applied. The next layer had just cream. The middle layer had jam, pieces of actual apricot, and then cream applied. Repeat until the top, which simply had clear glaze of apricot jam spread all over. Next I applied cream to the sides of the cake and piped cream across the top join where the two separate cakes met. On the morning of her party, I went out into her garden and snipped some fresh white camellias off her beautiful giant shrubs. They were perfect, not a speck or discolouration or water stain on any of them, they sat in the centre of the join in a lovely arrangement. I put a gold 70 from a cake decorating set, and applied golden star candles on toothpicks and one large candle 'happy birthday'.
I even had time to invent an activity at the last minute the morning of the party. I ran to the spare room and found a large white board of fairly stiff cardboard. Then I got lots of different coloured pieces of paper and on each one wrote a lovely memory or achievement from mum's life. For example meeting my father, the day they got married, getting her nursing qualifications, owning a show winning kitten, travelling in her youth with girlfriends etc And applied each paper memory on the board, then I blew up more balloons then one person should ever inflate by mouth unassisted. Each balloon was applied to the cardboard panel so that the whole thing was covered with no gaps (ribbon tied around balloon base then stickytaped onto the board). The concept was that mum had to remove the balloons one by one and read out the paper underneath for all the guests to hear. It was enjoyed by all, whether they shared the memory or were learning of the achievement for the first time, very bonding and enlightening and lots of laughs were had.
I made my first ever party hat for mum, a crown from a christmas cracker, with an aqua star glued on, with the numbers 70 from a cake set glued on, and some sparkly stick on gems, for her to wear while she blew out her birthday candles. I now make many a birthday crown, but that was the first, and she was very surprised.
So, that was my first family party, I remember it fondly, and it gives me the confidence for future party planning. I intend to post some more party activity ideas (mostly for children) down the track, and my idea for a 'no-tears' Easter egg hunt.... stay tuned. Love Starry

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mother Blessings

I have a wonderful friend named Donna, who told me last year that she was making the invitations for her friend's Mother Blessing, she asked me if I knew what this was, and I had to admit I had not heard of the idea. Donna was very kind and told me about the idea and sent the photo of the invitation above.

I have to say, the idea just delights me, so if you are thinking of having a baby shower for someone you know, perhaps you would consider changing the name of the event and incorporating the positive blessings that this special occasion deserves.

What is a mother blessing?

As Donna's invitation explains, "A mother blessing brings together a circle of women to honour and bestow positive energy on the mother-to-be as she prepares for the birth of her child. The tradition began with the Najavo American Indian ceremony 'the Blessing Way'.

It is a celebration of pregnancy and motherhood with focus on supporting and nurturing the mother-to-be. It gives the mother an opportunity to receive these blessings and encouragement for the journey ahead.

What do I bring to a Mother Blessing?

a flower flowers are symbolic of nature's abundance and beauty.

a small bead, charm, or button select one that you feel represents your well wishes for the mother and baby. At the mother blessing, all these trinkets will be threaded to make a necklace, a chain of linked hopes and positive thoughts that can be worn or placed in the birth suite during the delivery so the mother and baby feel surrounded by love.

your favourited inspirational quote or best advice to be compiled in a book for the mother-to-be so that she can read for strength and inspiration.

Mother Blessing activities

Threading the necklace and compiling the book are key activities.

Traditional baby shower gifts may be given to the mother.

Drinking a healthful toast (non alchoholic) perhaps the hostess will prepare a lovely toast for the mother and baby, asking for health, safety, comfort, guidance, and love.

I have heard of baby shower activities you may enjoy, in advance a patchwork square might be made by each guest and then at the blessing the squares are collected to make a finished quilt before the birth. Other activities I have seen include decorating nappies or 'onesies' (one piece baby suits) with non toxic pens or paints, each guest decorates a cloth nappy or a onesie for the baby.

At the end of the mother blessing creating a phonetree and giving each guest a candle to be lit when the mother goes into labour are a lovely touch and create the sense of a community of women channeling love and positive energy into the experience of mother and baby.

I hope you like the idea of a mother blessing, and that it enriches the lives of the precious women in your life, my love and best wishes to all mothers-to-be everywhere, xxx Starry

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gifts For Parents-To-Be

There are many precious gifts you can give those awaiting the arrival of a baby. Anything you can make from the heart - baby beanies, bonnets, booties, shawls, layettes, nappy stackers, bibs, quilts, mobiles, toys, journals and scrapbooks - are all wonderful. Make sure the parent knows the safety ins and outs, from what age can the baby safely wear/play with your gift?
I happen to think the most outstanding gift you can give parents to be, is a senior first aid course/seminar, you pay for it and they attend. It could mean they save their own child's life one day. Babies and children can so easily choke, drown, ingest toxins, etc, don't alarm the parent to be unduly, just encourage them to gain the knowledge we all hope they never need.
Another excellent gift is a nappy service subscription. It is a great way to encourage the environmentally and baby bottom friendly thing, without chaining mum to the never ending chore of washing dirty cloth nappies. Just think how much more enjoyable the early days and weeks with baby will be when the parents have more time to rest and play. If you can't absorb the cost of a service by yourself it is worth pooling for a baby shower gift.
Digital cameras, movie cameras, and coupons for printing, hampers of camera paper, printer cartridges, blank dvd and cd discs are all going to be wonderful to have on hand for all the precious moments ahead.
Child proofing professional services are also a good idea, they can foresee and prevent many dangers in the home and provide the equipment to childproof the house.
In the near future I will be posting an idea I got from a friend, called Mother Blessing, as a variation on a Baby Shower, it is such a beautiful idea I can't wait to sheare with you. I hope these ideas help for now, they are costlier than my usual idea but I see them as being very important, so I hope you give them some thought, I know you will. XxX Starry.

Monday, February 16, 2009

All Buttoned Up

After the button tshirts, I still had a lot of buttons left over, so I bought a chipboard tissue box cover from Spotlight ($3.95), and painted it with a pot of lavender accrylic paint I had on hand.
Once it was well and truly dried I began by pouring my buttons into two shallow dishes so that I could select buttons, one at a time, and attach them with stainless adhesive glue.
I did one side at a time, allowing the glue to fully set before turning the box over to begin the next side.
I find it is a good idea to keep a slightly damp sponge at hand to wipe any wet strings of glue before they set on your project.
I think this would be a lovely gift for a little girl's bedroom, and something your children could easily do for a friend's gift (providing your children can be trusted not to choke on the buttons of course).
Making my box was so soothing, and I completed it just in time before I caught this awful cold, and of course I am seeing a lot of the tissue box, we may run away together in fact. If I get the energy.
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever, it's loveliness increases, it will never pass into nothingness", John Keats

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Things You Should Do Every Day

These are the things I deeply, passionately believe you should be doing every day.

Smile its good for your mood, its good for the people around you, and therefore makes the world a better place. And if you have to show your age in your face, let it show more happiness than grief, you will thank yourself later.

Laugh it is the best medicine, after all.

Sing it increases your happiness (love those endorphins) and distracts you from stress and pain. I sang my way through painful injections under my nail bed and in my heel.

Sigh do it, a contented sigh is music from the soul.

Stretch push yourself to new experiences by stretching your body and your mind.

Play it is good for your inner child.

Be Grateful it is the most rewarding and enriching experience you can have.

And the good news is.... all these things are completely free!

"What a wonderful life I've had, I only wish I'd realized it sooner", Colette

Friday, February 13, 2009

On Valentine's Day, with Love

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To all who read this, you are wished a wonderful weekend, and a Happy Valentine's Day, whether old friend or new, relative, or passerby, I have found great happiness through founding this blog, and you are the reason for this enjoyment. You have taught me that my passions, and ideas and kind words are wanted and welcome in this world, so thank you, and enjoy your day.

I am single but I believe this year holds great promise for me, I have already met some very fine fellows and am finally ready to move on in my life. It looks like it may be beginning to rain men, how can I complain, I am dizzyingly, spinetinglingly happy (yes I know they aren't proper words, I am after all, a writer) but I made up my first word very early in life when I declared that it was 'a puddly day' in a story for school. The school librarian who was filling in as a substitute teacher ummed and arhed and finally said, 'yes, I suppose it was a puddly day, good girl'.

So from my heart to yours, have a great Valentine's Day, xxx Starry

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Easy Valentine's Day Treats

'I Love You' French Toast.

2 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 6 slices of stale bread, 1 teaspoon of margarine, 1 teaspoon of orange zest.

Lightly beat the eggs, mix in the milk, cinnamon, and orange rind. Heat margarine in a large frying pan. Dip the slices of bread in the egg mixture and fry on both sides until golden brown.

I like to make a smiley face with a thin slice of orange on a piece of toast, and two eyes made of raisins. You could use a heart shaped cookie cutter to make a heart shape by sprinkling sifted icing sugar or castor sugar inside the perimeter of the cutter on top of a slice of toast.

Message Cupcakes

cupcake mix ingredients, heart shaped candies, marshmallows.

Simply prepare your usual cupcake recipe, or if you need a timesaver, I love Green's or White Wings packet mixes, you can get Pink Ribbon fundraising cakes from the supermarket that are a vanilla cake with pink frosting, ideal for Valentine's Day. Make the cakes, and when you frost them, apply those little heart candies, the ones that say things like 'be mine', or 'true love', etc, if they seem to be dissolving into the icing, you can wait to apply them until you are presenting them to the recipient, or try resting the heart candy on top of a marshmallow.

Marshmallow Necklaces

packets of marshmallows (pink and white ones for contrast), a clean sewing needle, cotton thread.

If you have ever strung popcorn onto strands of cotton for Christmas, then you know what to do, simply pass the needle through the centre of each marshmallow to make a necklace, I like to do this for children.

Easy Paper Mosaic Heart Card

I use one sheet of A4 cardstock, and shreds of high gloss magazine paper from adverts that have large sections of space without print, my card (at top of post) uses tones of aqua and purple shredded paper, but you could use all pinks, reds, or rainbows of colour as you prefer. Tearing the paper into pieces gives the heart a patchwork look, like a mended broken heart, cutting the pieces with scissors is neater but doesn't have the same folk craft effect.

Draw or trace a heart shape on the card stock (folded in half to make a card) and then randomly attach the pieces of shiny paper using glue, Uhu gluestick is good because the paper doesn't get too moist (moist paper shows print from the reverse side). This is one of the most economic card projects I have ever completed and is easy for children to do for their parents, grandparents, or friends.

Embellished Gift Boxes

I buy very cheap boxes at Spotlight, and then I decorate them myself, this box, given to a dear friend, has a gold filigree glued on with stainless adhesive, then a metallic dragonfly charm glued diagonally over the filigree. The box suits any gift from a truffle or rumball, to a shell, blossom, cyrstal, or jewellery.

I hope you have some lovely plans in mind for Valentine's Day, remembering that it is the thought that counts, and it is a great day for finding out that you are thought of. Tell anyone, friends, family, partners, just how much you love them. The message is free, and it doesn't get easier than that.
Love, Starry

The Do's & Don'ts of Gifts for Children

The Do's & Don'ts of Gifts for Children

Now that school has returned, there will be party invitations coming home in schoolbags around the nation. When you are a parent it is natural that you would prefer your child not be given certain things as gifts, but how can you let these perferences be known without seeming rude? I would avoid any reference to these things on invitations, nothing scars an invitation more than this kind of thing. It would be better to let your concerns be known through conversations with other mothers before it is time to arrange a party, through natural sharing of thoughts and ideas as you get to know other parents in the community.

Any parent knows the dread they feel when their own child unwraps a noise making gift - by this I mean drum kits, blaster guns with very loud sound effects, cars and trucks with sirens.... So these would be wisely avoided unless you want some degree of payback when your child's birthday comes around.

It is very common now for parents to make a blanket statement against weapon type toys - guns, swords, bow and arrows - and I completely understand, especially when it comes to toy guns. Toy guns, if you ask me, are as bad an idea as those novelty cigarette lollies that were sold when I was growing up. Objects that are dangerous when used as intended are not ideal products to have replicas and toys fashioned after them.

I have very strong objections to giving children makeup for presents. In the first place I will not let a girl wear makeup until she is 12 years or older, and secondly many of the makeup items given as gifts are cheap and of such poor quality that they are unhealthful and possibly dangerous. There have been cases of skin reactions, and in more serious cases illness from inhaling fumes (from nail polish and lip gels) lead based products have been found even in popular adult brand of lipsticks. Analysis' performed for current affair type programs have shown carcinogens abound in make up products aimed at children. I would definitely let it be known that you do not want your daughter to be given makeup.

It is wise to be wary of gifts from cheap markets and shops such as Cost Plus and the $2 Shop as they are very poorly constructed, have small parts which can be swallowed or plastic that snaps and cracks cutting fingers, and may even be unsuitable for children to suck and chew on. Many imported toys are doused in chemicals which are difficult to remove from soft toys which are labelled 'surface clean only'.

I realize it is very difficult to afford a gift for every classmate or friend who sends your child an invitation, perhaps an arrangement could be made between parents for 'no gift' parties to be held. Otherwise anything you can make yourself (view past projects on including beaded jewellery, embellished headbands, gift boxes, button design shirts, paint and sequin shirt designs, and card projects).

I will post in the near future some simple party activities, as well as food ideas for a tea party or teddy bear picnic, I hope you have found this helpful and feel free to pass this along to other mothers you know, love Starry

Monday, February 9, 2009

Valentine's Day for Men Who Oppose the Concept

Girls, please pass this on to all the men you know, I have written it with them in mind.
Fellows, my friends, I understand that you do not like Valentine's Day. It is commercial, it is materialistic, and it's annoying to be expected to shower someone with love simply because of the date on the calender. Have you seen the look on your girl's face when you run through these objections? If it were simply a case of their unreasonable disappointment and let's face it, probably a hissy fit as well, I would tell them to suck it up. Instead I'm telling you.
So you don't like commercial holidays? Really? Haven't heard you complain on your birthay, father's day or Christmas! As for the being told to to celebrate love because it is February 14 have you considered doing it on any other day? It would make a wonderful surprise.
I don't like commercial giving either, its the reason I founded this site. I like gifts from the heart, not the hip pocket. There are plenty of things you could do for free - write a note, place a flower from the garden on her pillow, give her a shell or piece of quartz you found on a walk. Serenade her with a song, even if you can't sing, to hell with the neighbours! Do that job she's been asking you to do for ages, surprise her with a willing heart, tell her you're sorry it took you so long to get around to it.
It would be a tremendous to surprise her any day of the year, but don't let her feel alone and unloved on Valentine's Day, tell her you love her. Tell her she's the most precious thing in your life. Don't do it to end the argument, say it because it's true.