{home & garden} tomkat studio ~ valentine collection

I have an obsession with The TomKat Studio.

I’ll admit it, but it really shouldn’t come as a surprise, as whatever I deem to be a favorite, I truly am a loyal follower.  The TomKat Studio. first wowed me with their help on the Three Ring Circus Birthday Party last year.  And of course I’m addicted to their free printable calendar. (And just read that there is a weekly calendar now too….)

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But they have since been beyond incredible at helping me get ready for the girls’ birthdays this year, as well as our Valentine’s Party.  I’ve also used some of the free printables Kim offers for Piper’s Baptism.  You’ll have to stay tuned for all the details, but know that I’m over the top excited about how each party is turning out!!  And I really can’t beleive the creativity, dedication, and customer service of The TomKat Studio team. You will not be sorry if you use their printables for an upcoming event!  I really love that it’s a simple addition that adds that little somethin-somethin to the day.

But I really wanted to give you a heads up that Kim’s Simply Sweet Valentine Printable Collection is darling as well as a bargain!!  You get every possible printable you could dream of using to make your Valentine’s Day special. Whether you use it for the kids lunches throughout the month, for a little Valentine brunch, something for a school party…whatever the “loving” occasion, the collection really is sweet.  Splurge for the $9.50!!

You could also, download the free printable “Love” banner that was featured on HGTV.

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Just be sure to check em out!  Such a fun party addition!!

{home & garden} birthday season

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Wow. It’s here again.What’s here you ask??? BIRTHDAY SEASON!

And what does birthday season mean in our house? Are you ready for it? It means this….

Newborn cousin born last night!

Sister-in-law’s (newborn’s mom) birthday today

Niece on Jan 20

Brother-in-law’s birthday Feb 4

His brother, my other brother-in-law Feb 7

Mine Feb 9

(short break for Piper’s, + 2 cousins’ baptisms)

(short break for Valentines’ Day)

My mother-in-law Feb 14

Hayden Feb 16

Another nephew a few days after that….

Then into the start of March with Piper March 9

And then Addie March 14.


And that’s not to mention all the friend birthday parties on the calendar. Seriously peeps, does everyone really just like “celebrating” the start of summer each year???

So this is about the time in the year that I just put my head down and get er down for birthday season! Christmas feels like a dress rehearsal to me…

I figured it was about time, since it’s been a year, to post about the party last year. Hubs and I decided that each child would have a First Birthday Party to be sure we really celebrated their first year. And so that when each looks back, none will feel they were left out somehow. Addie’s was a Little Einstein Birthday (she’s born on 3/14), then Hayden’s (and Addie’s) was a Sock Hop, and Piper’s (and Addie & Hayden’s) was a Three Ring Circus.

This year we’re doing small individual family parties for each (we’re a little worn out from the past 3 years), plus we really wanted to start doing a smaller, special party for each girl.

But last year’s party was definitely fun! When we were deciding on a theme, a Facebook Follower immediately responded with THREE RING CIRCUS, and we honestly couldn’t think of a better description of our then current life! So we ran with it.

Of course, I was totally behind at the time (About a month before her birthday day, Piper started walking. Prior too she was just my easy hip baby. I always felt like I had 2.1 kids. But when she started to walk……we might as well have had 8 kids under our roof! So I had nothing ready for their party. Frankly nothing in my life was ready).

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But Kim from The TomKat Studio saw my Facebook post about drowning in party details that weren’t done, and offered her team’s assistance. Thank the Heaven’s above, because I promise you, this party would not have happened without them. They quickly customized The TomKat Studio Circus collection of printables for what I needed, and it made the party! I was able to print everything from home onto full 8-1/2 x 11″ label sheets, then cut everything out with a circle punch & scallop punch.

I found a couple cute party napkins at Party City, that I used as a base for patterns. They weren’t meant to be together, but I liked the mix. I made color copies to use in a multitude of ways:

Paper cones for popcorn…

Bunting Flags for our backyard fence & the birthday signage…

Cards to label the food….

A label around a water bottle…

Also, when I use 2 patterns, I usually color copy one pattern on one side, wait a bit for the ink to dry, and then reload the paper on the opposite side to copy the second pattern on the back side.

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My mom made a couple cute tablecloths using a black & white Ikea fabric (figured it was a great basic, which proved right, we’ve used them so many times!)

I chose to use less balloons this time, and instead enlisted the help of my youngest sister and mom. They made LOADS of tissue pom-poms that had a great circus pop and lots of color around the house and yard.

Food was pretty basic ~ Costco frozen corn dogs, trays of chicken nuggets from Chik-fil-A, large warm pretzels from Smart & Final, fresh fruit, bags of chips, and the day of, a friend flew up to Costco to pick up fresh Churros for $1/each.

Then there were the birthday cakes…Susie Cakes. They are so dang yummy, I can’t pass up the chance to eat em! Once again, The TomKat Studio came to the rescue with their free mini bunting flag printable….I thought the cakes were darling! (My dad said he thought I was decorating an ant parade, hilarious!)

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I did 1 cake for each girl. All had a white buttercream exterier. Addie’s was a Vanilla Confetti Cake with Strawberry Buttercream filling, Hay’s was a Vanilla Cake with Lemon Buttercream filling (our family favorite), and Piper’s was a Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Buttercream filling. (BTW – you know she’s your third child when you order your 1 year old’s cake with peaNUT butter! Oh well, we did and she loved it!)

The kids were all dressed in jeans and these darling number shirts I found from The TomKat Studio, called Picadilly Circus Shirts (I don’t think the shop is open anymore though, so sad!). Suzanne the owner sent her husband from Manhattan Beach the morning of the party with the girls shirts! Amazing!

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Sandy Heit was thankfully at the party to capture all the fun moments for me too. Her photos always make me smile!! Such a great eye. We even arranged for a super cute photo booth that I’ll share in a separate post. LOVE those photos!!! (And love having parents and a sister that dress in theme for a party….without being asked!)

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Kids were sent home with little colorful buckets that I added The TomKat Studio printable to. I can’t quite remember what was in them now…..but I know they had taffy, colored star sunglasses, & whistles.

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That’s about it. A super fun Three Ring Circus! Now it’s time for me to get my head down again and prep for the next round of birthday parties…wish me luck!

{Home & Garden} Halloween Fun with Yum! GIVEAWAY!

So fun!!  Loved seeing this on the news stand this week!  (I hinted about it ages ago…) Last Thursday I was sitting in the salon chair of the fabulous Tera Stephens.  And she happened to say “Hey, I saw the Halloween party article in Yum for Kids magazine. Did you know it was out? So fun to see you and your kiddos having so much fun.” The record screeched to a stop. No!  I’ve been dying to see it…so you can bet I rushed to pick a copy up (as soon as Tera had my hair looking as fabulous as it would look for 1 day before I see her again in 8 weeks…).

I ran home to pick up Hayden and we went on an adventure to buy a magazine…

Hay do you know who that is?? “My baby Piper!”

Yep, and who else “And Hay-Hay”!

Yep, anyone else? “Mommy!!! And my Addie!”

Right you are little cutie pie.  So fun to get to see this article and re-live that day. It was  great to work with Yum for Kids and put together this Halloween party. Definitely check out the magazine…lots of great quick dinner ideas, back to school fun, birthday party ideas (such a cute cowboy party you need to read about!)

All in all a really fun experience and I was honored to have been asked to work with them.  I love the magazine and although I’m sad Yum for Kids is only published 4 times a year, on the other side, I’m kind of glad because each issue is packed FULL of useful information. One of those times when less really is more.

In fact I love it so much I would love to give you a subscription {GIVEAWAY!!}.  Just comment below and let me know if you’ve ever seen the magazine. If you have, what’s your favorite part?  If you haven’t, well I’m so sad for you!  I will say it’s challenging to find sometimes. I often get mine at Target. But I’m thrilled you can subscribe now…nothing better than DELIVERED TO MY DOOR!

Check it out and get your Halloween spook on!

{Disclaimer ~ Subscription giveaway sponsored by yours truly. Love the magazine and I hope you love it too!}

Trick or Treat!?…TREAT!

Every now and then I get a phone call or email asking me if I can help with some design staging ~ parties, rooms, etc. It’s definitely something I love to do and is very much my past life. So when I can find a way to squeeze a project or two in, I do! I love the challenge!

This past October was one of those times.  Our home had been used a few months earlier in a Yum for Kids article featuring Vonny’s new casserole cover (LOVE it!). Then a few days before Halloween, Yum for Kids contacted us again and asked about doing a Halloween party the day after Halloween…is this a Trick or  Treat??  I’m going to go with TREAT! Let’s take on the challenge!

(This is where I had a momentary lapse in judgment and thought I was still living my past life sans kids…).

But none the less, it came together and I think it looked AWESOME! I was so pleased with the outcome and had such amazing people helping out with it all!  I haven’t talked about it much until now as I wasn’t sure I was able to, but my fabulous Latte Fairy friend at ToMedia just sent this video clip over that she made and it reminded me how much fun that day was!

How fun does that look! Now I can’t wait for their Fall issue to come out!

Here’s a little bit of where it all started…

This is the bulletin board / door in my little office. Whatever project I’m working on, this board becomes the new inspiration place. Yum called Wednesday afternoon, and by Wednesday night this board was in full action!

Nap time the next day was spent in the garage “working it out” in my head and trying to come up with some magic…

Then it was time to work on some food…mint Oreos became crumbs in the food processor…

And little spiders soon appeared…

Friday’s  nap time was spent with Hubs being the pool man & yard guy, while I started figuring out the Halloween table (that was quickly dismantled before the kiddos woke up).

Piper was seriously questioning what had happened to her Mommy!

While the little ones went out trick-or-treating with Daddy and the Grampas, and the Grandma’s manned the candy bowl on the porch…

The final set up was finished off that would hopefully just need a little tweaking the next morning…

Then the oh so fabulous Tera Stephens showed up (after she finished Erica’s 6am pilates class!!) to try and help a tired Mama out!

Then it was Misha’s turn to do her best to get rid of those tired puffy eyes!

THANK THE WORLD for these amazing ladies! I was a walking Zombie before they arrived!!

Then it was show time and we pulled it all together for the shoot! Loved the energy and amazingly talented people that we worked with that day….Looking forward to the next one!

It’s a Three Ring Circus around here…

For some reason having 2 kids under 2 and being pregnant was doable. Tough, but I could make it work.

Then 2 kids under 2 with a young baby (a young, easy, totally & miraculously self sufficient baby) was doable. Tough, but life worked.


3 kids, 2 and under (Piper turns 1 on Wednesday, Addie turns 3 this coming Monday, Hayden turned 2 a few weeks ago). Well….life just went over the edge. I have never in my life been so behind, so overwhelmed, and so NOT on top of my game. I knew I had reached an OK place with it all when my husband said,

“Look at it this way, you’ve had the photo frames up in the playroom since November….and the photos that are hanging upside down and sideways haven’t snapped your brain yet. The old you would have had a nervous breakdown by now, you’re much more OK with it all”.


So he is partly right, because to be OK and to not lose your sanity, you definitely need to be “OK with it all”, but the other part of my Type A personality put the new photos in the frames the next day, mortified it had gone so long!

So I apologize at being gone from posting for a bit, but life as you know, and I’m sure you live, is just plane crazy right now.

But life also continues…

Regardless of the 10 hour drive up north I did with the kids and my fabulous mother-in-law to see family…

No matter my computer with so little memory that a 15 minute task takes 5 hours (literally)…

By gones that my second Little has decided she no longer wants to poop in the potty, and is in love with green smoothies (except that now she needs to pee every 15 minutes thanks to those greens)…making errands, workouts, and walks interesting…

So what that we’re throwing the girls “Three Ring Circus” Birthday party this weekend, which it only dawned on me 2-1/2weeks ago that the date was creeping up…yikes! Planning a party very quickly over here!!

Oh cares that I suddenly got a wild hair causing me to rearrange our entire house in order to sort out my overwhelmed brain….you do that too, don’t you??  Have too much on your plate so you clean your closet, make your bed, empty out the phone drawer….or tear apart your family room in order to find clarity and the meaning of life??!?? Works like a charm, I promise! (Kinda…)

This is what I know about life, is that it’s just that, LIFE.

You live it, breathe it, be thankful for it, enjoy it, stress out about it. In the end it’s still just that, your life. We all put our pants on one leg at a time as my mom says. Some days are easier that others, the key is to keep breathing and laughing and it will all workout in the end.

So today, in order to multi-task a little (and because I’ve missed you all) I thought I would share some of the inspiration photos I’ve found online for the Circus Party. Addie of course is hoping to see an elephant in our driveway…she honestly talks about our Circus field trip ALL THE TIME. Hoping she isn’t too sad about not having a REAL elephant…just wasn’t in the cards, (nor do we have that giant pooper scooper they use…)

I LOVED this vintage circus look from Hello Lucky. Great, great Circus party, small scale and big details!

I found Piccadilly Circus Designs on The TomKat Studio site today. LOVE ’em! I can’t wait to see the shirts I’ve ordered for the girls. They were soooo responsive and nice, and getting them for the party Saturday was no problem! Love that kind of customer service (especially when I’m so behind my game this year….)

Amy Atlas always has inspiring tables and guest features. Loved the bunting flags around the cake stand and on the cake.

I’ve seen this detail of hanging the name on a little banner a few times and love the idea! I’ve got the twine…now let’s see if I can pull off the Littles names on their cakes….Oh Lord, I need to order the cakes too….

Tissue pom-pom are a great inexpensive way to add character and color to a party…mind you, I’ve never made them myself (hoping Martha’s tutorial will have my back with these), I’ve been told it’s easy…I’ll have to let you know how it all goes…

Be sure to check out this fun and girlie vintage circus party from The TomKat Studio…so, so sweet!

I really do love TomKat Studio’s work! It really livens up a party and gives it a very pretty and finished off look…totally shows that you thought through your details.

Of course I have not (thought through my details) this year….

So I don’t have anything like this yet…

And that computer problem I mentioned above might mean I wont have them for this party, but we’ll see!

I just love this photo! I have since the first time I saw it on The TomKat Studio site!! I hope our girls are as excited and happy this weekend! (Even if there wont be any REAL elephants in the driveway…)

I just had to include this  photo from Piccadilly Circus Designs! Melt my heart in cuteness! Can’t wait for Saturday! Cross you fingers I can pull this all off….

Sharing some love….

I don’t even know HOW it can be Valentines Day in a week! This year is FLYING by so fast I can’t even say I’m barely keeping up…I’m not keeping up AT.ALL. I wonder if my kids will care if I serve their Valentine pancakes on their Santa plates? I’m pretty sure I have not put them away yet….and I know there aren’t any heart plates in the cupboard!

Maybe I’m more on my game when I’m pregnant?? Last year I was throwing a sock hop birthday for Addie & Hay, I had wrapped Valentines gifts with hand print paper, and the girls (including unborn Piper) each had a monogrammed heart blanket waiting for them….

Seriously, maybe my act works better pregnant???  Too bad my head might explode if I were….

This year??

Well this year I do have some cute heart pjs I bought during the Christmas sales, and a few little Valentine books…but that’s as close as I am…need to get it together this week and make some cute Valentine Cards. Oh wait. I think we are having a family Valentine party next Monday? Or was it Sunday? Oops. Guess I better get on that too…

Needless to say, I have not been making my usual visits to all my favorite blogs lately. Things have been a little hectic. But I did come across a few fun ideas to share…

Have you ever heard of One Charming Party? Love em. Great ideas for DIY Tutorials. Free Printables, and all around grand ideas. It’s always a stop for me for inspiration! Honestly, how could you not be inspired looking at a page like this?!?

A couple fun ideas that stood out for me this month are this D.A.R.L.I.N.G Gumball Necklace! I’m really hoping to make these this week…so dang cute!

And see that sweet Valentine next to the necklace? You can use it too, and you don’t have to lift a finger (well maybe just one…). It’s one of the free printables.

On the healthy side of things, I thought this was a really cute sticker idea from The Kitchen. Who says Valentines day has to be just about candy?? Fruit is just as sweet (sometimes…).

Of course never, to be forgotten are the stunning Amy Atlas Setups. Always awesome!

Jenny at Picky Palate NEVER disappoints with her desserts! It may not be a Valentine cookie, but I’m pretty sure you would make a heart smile if you made these…HELLO brownie inside of a cookie! Where have you been all my life??

Lastly, here are a couple ideas that I did last year. Neither took a lot of effort and both were really fun and yummy…

Addie and I made Valentine Cookies (the easy way!)

And this Chocolate Fondue is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. And really, really easy!! I’m not sure whether to love or hate my sister for introducing it to me! (I’m gonna go with love BTW as it’s always a hit!)

Happy Hearts Day to you and yours!  Hugs and love to you all!

Our Wedding ~ Part 3 ~ Save the Date

Contrary to popular belief, I did not have a grand plan for our wedding. Things sort of came together as we went along. I mean I knew certain things that I wanted, and I also knew that in the directions I chose to take, I would find elements that I could keep consistent through out. But at the time we decided on the Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the only thing I knew was:

  1. We were getting married in Hawaii
  2. The date was November 4th
  3. I liked the color orange

We were engaged in February, and I think we had decided on Hawaii by Mid March or April. One of my sister-in-law’s was due with her second baby in June, my other sister-in-law was getting married that August, and my own sister was due with her first baby at the end of the year. I knew dates would fill up. So I needed to get “Save the Dates” out within days of our decision…oh, and I didn’t have any money to spend on them.

The post card to the left is the Save the Date. Thank goodness Liz Photographed it as I can’t seem to find a copy now! Anyhoooo, image was on the front, and I made up a postcard on the back and ran it back through the printer after the front side had dried.

The Save the Date ended up inspiring the information packet (the other item in the photo above) that I sent out after the invitations.

I opted to use leftover card stock from our family Christmas cards for both projects. It was a lovely off white Italian paper. I tore the cards in half (for the postcard), found a cute image online, used a simple bamboo font that I found in Word (I’m not savvy enough to understand PhotoShop or anything tricky) and ran the card through my home printer one by one (the card stock was a little heavy to stack in a tray.)

A friend then clued me into a postage stamp that was no longer being printed, but was a beautiful tropical fish. I gathered up as many as I could from local post offices to use for every possible snail mail material I could think I might send over the next few months.

All this to say:

  1. You never know what cute thing you can put together on the cheap (I only purchased postage).
  2. You don’t need to understand a fancy art program. I did everything from Microsoft Word (wasn’t an Apple girl yet) from my home computer & printer.
  3. Be sure your photographer makes up for your short falls and takes a picture of everything.

I’ll give you the 411 on the info packet in another post.  Next up is the wedding invite…

Our Wedding ~ Part 2 ~ So this is how we ended up with 3 babies!

I should have known when this photo was taken that we would be in trouble. These are my bridesmaids. 4 of them are pregnant. And my Matron of Honor, who is not in the photo as she was not able to travel at the last minute, was pregnant.

And my wedding coordinator was pregnant.

And our photographer was pregnant, 8 months pregnant! And she took this photo on the hottest day I’ve ever experienced in Hawaii, while walking backwards.

And then this one a few moments later. Still backwards. Walking down the stairs to the beach.

I’m fairly certain I could not have done that at 8 months with any of my babies!

This picture should have warned me too.  But I was just too taken with the cute guy at the time…


I blame all of the people above for our having 3 babies under 3!

And I thank them all immensely too!

(Photo Credit: All of the images above were taken by the talented Liz Banfield. 8 months pregnant at the time…)

A Little Something for the Table

If you are anything like me, then you might stress, just a little bit, before company comes for dinner. So many things that you want to have look “just so”. One of those things for me is a nice arrangement of flowers. But for some crazy reason, I just don’t always have the time to run out and grab one when I need one these days…

(I’m really not sure why, mind you. I really have loads of extra unused seconds in the day….)

However, in my life pre-Littles, it was important to me to have things perfect. Perfect table setting, perfect serving dish, perfect food.

As my life has changed over the years, and most specifically now. I really had to let go of certain things. But I don’t believe that “letting go” means “giving up” on what makes you happy. It just means to look for the solution in a different way.

For me having a “perfect table” for company, wasn’t about being perfect. What I like about a perfect table is that it makes me feel good. I like to create something that guests are able to enjoy. I like to look at that table and feel like it’s complete and is a pleasent place for our guests to feel comfortable and escape to for the short time they are visiting. So putting all those things together (placemats, napkins, tabletop) it’s all about creating that special space.

So I haven’t given up on having all those “perfect” little things. (If you know me, you know I truly believe you don’t have to give up your style when you have a family). It’s just that now I find the “perfect things” within arms reach as it’s a little challenging to always run out for things with the Littles in tow…and quite honestly, with a bevy of babes, comes a bevy of extra expenses, and flower arrangements sadly don’t always get to be at the top of the list.

But you would be shocked at what you might find in your backyard. I’ve touched on this before, but it’s nice to be able to snip a little something homegrown. For Thanksgiving this year, I asked my mom to help me cut some fresh herbs to group down the center of the table.

It was simple, it smelled wonderful, they weren’t over-powering the table, & they created a perfect little accent…

Oh, and they were free.

Don’t underestimate what’s in your backyard, it just might surprise you!

our wedding ~ part one…where?

Our wedding. It was 4 years ago this November. Unbelievably, it seems like yesterday. However, 3 babies and a mortgage tell me it was not!  We were engaged in February ’06 and married 9 months later (And nope, there sure wasn’t a bun in the oven!! Addie didn’t come into our lives until March ‘08!).

The Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii had become a special place to us as a couple and seemed the perfect and logical spot for us to have our wedding.

On the emotional and romantic side ~ it was Hawaii, on a beach, a destination wedding, a favorite resort…

On the practical side ~ the state tax was 4.25% (not 8.25% like California), the location was beautiful on it’s own and would not need as much décor, and finally, it was on an island, so the options would be limited ~ a plus if you know me. And all of this helps when you’re planning a party on on a budget.

I think I personally was able to “let go” more knowing that there was only so much I could control.  In the end I knew Mike and I would get married and we would love each other the same, no matter the color of the flowers, or the way the cake looked (which I didn’t order until 3 days before the wedding). Instead I tried to keep my hand on the details that I could control and that would have a significant impact.

I’m so looking forward to sharing it all with you. It was a magical week for us. We ended up staying there for our Honeymoon as well,  best decision we ever made! Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing stories from our time there, party & design tips that worked well and that will translate to any event, not just weddings.

And of course, I’ll be sharing photos.

Because I loved our photographer.

And I love photos. (Shocker I know.)

And I love sharing things I love. (Another shocker.)

And I loved that amazing week filled with family and friends!

(Photo Credit: Every single solitary fabulous wedding image by Liz Banfield)