Lego Birthday Party on A Budget

Handmade invitations: for once I surprised my husband by not using PhotoShop. But our son is old enough to write his guests’ and his own name on each card. The circles are made of foam bought from the dollar store, and I used the tin cap from olive oil bottle to make the shapes.

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The decorations: Lego party favor bags, the punch out pinatas (more on that later)  and presents disguised as decorations. We also got yellow balloons, but forgot to draw faces on those.

 The t-shirts. I found the Lego man stencil from this site. The dollar store has colored t-shirts, although these were mostly L and M youth sizes, and I had to get the 2T and 3T sizes in white for higher prices elsewhere. Three methods for shirt printing were used with varying degrees of success. The original plan was to use heat transfers, and Wal-Mart sells these cheaper than Avery online, about $1+ per sheet; Michael’s was selling another brand for about $10 with only 3 sheets.

Because the celebrant was celebrating his 8th birthday I made two shirts with different designs. One involving the use of freezer paper as stencil and Tulip fabric paint. I got the instructions from here, although I used an 8-Lego man design. Cutting out 8 smaller Lego figures with an exacto knife proved to be tedious and messy. His second shirt turned out better, using the fabric paint to draw the Lego figure and adding a red balloon. To think I only came up with this to cover some mistakes with the heat transfer. But the ones who got this version were pleased that their Lego man had a face. One young guest refused his shirt and later declared it was “stupid” because it didn’t have any eyes or nose, ha-ha-ha.

The “birthday cake”. We have a tradition of not using traditional cakes, and so in previous birthday parties we used cupcakes to form a dinosaur, and brownies and sugar foam for the Angry Birds theme. This year my in-laws made rice krispies to resemble Lego bricks. Because one of our guests is gluten-intolerant we used rice chex. It looks messy but tastes good with semi-sweet baking M&Ms, even if the Betty Crocker cookie icing made it too sweet. Lego candles from Amazon and characters holding the candles completed the colorful effect.

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Rectangle pepperoni pizzas from Caesar’s also looked like Legos.

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The activities. Having a family with seven kids with tons of Legos living next door made our first activity possible. We declared a Lego building contest and our son picked the winner. Or rather, he declared everyone a winner, because he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We also had the toddlers category.

Our punch-out pinatas drew the most praises. When our guests’ ages ranged from 2 to 8 having them take turns to punch a hole to claim their party favors made a lot of sense. It was also easy to make, therefore, cheaper than buying a pinata; and we made three.

Lastly, the party favors that were supposed to go in the punch-out pinatas, are of course little Lego figures. Amazon sells them in packs, and I thought I got a good deal that cost $5 for an entire pack of 20 characters … except they arrived the day after the party, so be sure to order these 3-6 weeks ahead. At least most of our guests live on our street and go to the same school.

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I really went overboard with this party family and friends said, but there were actually other ideas that I didn’t have the time and energy to do anymore.

In the end, everyone had a great time. We didn’t have a single meltdown (although I came close that morning). And the kids look so adorable in their shirts.

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There are more great ideas for a fun Lego party here:

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The Teal Pumpkin Project

The Teal Pumpkin Project is a campaign to make non-food or non-candy treats available as alternatives for a low-sugar, food allergy-safe Halloween. I first learned about it when it was launched last year, at about the same time that we were offering glow-rings and glow-necklaces. Even when our son went on his first trick-or-treating activity back in Nigeria, we’ve always appreciated it that people offered stickers, erasers, balls, etc., because he doesn’t like chocolates and most candies. Until now he still only likes strawberry-flavored sweets. He’s also concerned that he has friends and classmates who are gluten-intolerant and have food allergies.

The problem is this is a new campaign and most people have never heard of it. I had to make my own teal pumpkins because none of the major stores were selling these. I could not even find paint in teal, but managed to pick spray paint and acrylic paint. I was also able to buy fake pumpkins at 40-75 percent off on the 30th.

Of course, we also had the usual sweets. What is surprising is half of the trick or treaters chose the toys, especially the toddlers and tweens. The most popular items were the slime, Vampire fangs, and bouncing rubber eyeballs.

Our Very Own Kitchen Garden

It all started last year when tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and pumpkins started to sprout from the compost pile in our backyard. Last spring hubs began planting a variety of seeds and seedlings, inspired by our friends who run a CSA potager and neighbors. By summer time we began to enjoy fresh-picked herbs and vegetables like basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, mint, lettuce, onions, squash, bell peppers, baby carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and even a few ears of corn and honeydew. We weren’t so lucky with cilantro. The sunflowers were crazy like 8 ft tall, so we’re not going to plant those again, even if they might have kept the squirrels and birds from eating the other produce.

The most amazing thing is the 60+ tomatoes that came from just two plants after he learned to pollinate the flowers using our son’s Sponge Bob vibrating toothbrush. So far we’ve made spaghetti sauce and bloody mary from these. Most of the time we enjoy them raw with pesto or on salad.

We planted the herbs on plant boxes so we can keep them indoors when it gets too cold. A cousin bought us a shelf-style greenhouse which fits them perfectly. I

Our Low Budget Star Wars Theme Party

11942310_10155945355870058_1502159359741420731_oFirst of all, we lucked out because a lot of Star Wars items are on sale as the latest movie will premier this Friday, Sep. 3. I found the Stormtrooper cut-outs in the clearance bin at Party City and the Nerf gun with laser light also on sale at Target. (You can always print from the Internet. We tied these to strings instead of gluing to cans or bowling pins to save ourselves the trouble of raising them up whenever they were hit. And the kids liked flipping over the targets that got hit).

But many of the props and materials used at my nephew’s 7th birthday party are easy to put together:

Luke Skywalker Costume

My husband gladly donated his old plain white t-shirts (size L), and all we had to do was remove the sleeves and cut the front. Extra brown fabric from a curtain became belts/sashes, and voila!

Pool Noodle Light Saber

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This one is a no-brainer. The first activity after our young Jedi apprentices donned their Skywalker costumes was to build their own light sabers, of course. They had silver and black duct tape at their disposal, and their choice of green, blue, purple, and red noodles ($1.99 each at Target). The celebrant decided he was going to be Darth Maul, and wrapped his tape around the middle.

These two simple things were enough to keep the kids engaged for hours. Best of all, the young padawans got to keep their costumes and light sabers. That was cool, because we didn’t have to bother with party bags.

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All we needed were two black poster boards ($1.70) cut and put together as a circle plus more duct tape. I did buy a black plastic table cloth from the Dollar Store as backdrop — decorated with foil stars (used a cookie cutter) — and ping-pong balls (a pack of six cost $1.50).

Optional feature: these cool TIE Fighters and X-Wing Fighters came from a boxed set of action figures on sale at Target.

11947731_10155945331360058_1612141535342922312_oSo the party was relatively a success, until the celebrant had a meltdown when his guests started to leave. I don’t think any of the kids actually wanted the party to be over.

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A French Market Garden in Spokane

a small family run market garden in North Spokane. This summer we signed up for a weekly share of harvest from the Le Potager French Market Garden, our own Community Supported Agriculture or CSA, just a mile away from where we live. The best part about this is it is run by family friends, our sons are classmates and playmates, hopefully BFFs.

Le Potager is a small family run market garden in North Spokane. It was established “to grow the most nourishing and nutrient rich food as possible, and do it a bit of French garden style. Potager is French for an ornamental vegetable or kitchen garden. Flowers and herbs are planted with the vegetables to enhance the garden’s beauty. We grow intensively on less than an acre and offer a number of rare European heirloom fruits and vegetables.”

Sean and Rachel Cruz managed to plant over 200 varieties of vegetables and herbs. So far we have enjoyed some “exotic” red spinach, purple broccoli, French carrots, French shallots, lemon cucumbers, red basil, and heirloom tomatoes. I have experimented with different recipes using their produce, and have posted these dishes on their Facebook community page and my own Instagram and Facebook pages.

Le Potager also sells produce at the Fairwood Flea & Farmers Market.

Hello Again

I have been neglecting this site — just not feeling motivated to blog until now. It seems redundant when I have different groups and pages on Facebook about international school teaching, cooking, nutrition, gardening, hiking, and Spokane. I also have a very active fitness and nutrition account on Instagram (which you can see here).

DIY Summer Camp

So I’m just going to share the DIY Summer Camp that we organized with our child’s playmates and neighbors. We could not afford the high cost of day camps so we turned to the Internet, particularly Pinterest, for some ideas. It was great that for the first two weeks of summer our kids were able to go to Vacation Bible School (VBS) in the neighborhood. After that I came up with a theme for each day:

  • Monday was Library Day, because our local library scheduled activities featuring visiting performers like Herman and the Invisible Band, Knights of Veritas, and Star Wars Day.
  • Tuesday was Games Day. We had water balloon and squirt gun fights, slip n’ slide, balloon stomp, kick ball, etc.
  • Wednesday was Parks & Playground Day. We took the kids hiking on the Little Spokane River Painted Rocks Trail a week before a wild fire made it unsafe. We also had an awesome picnic with BBQ at Bear Lake before the burn ban. The kids also have been the Pine River Park (last day of school), Liberty Lake, Riverside State Park Bowl & Pitcher, and Mt. Spokane. Next week we’re going to take them across the border to Idaho’s Coeur D’Alene Beach and Playground.
  • Thursday was Arts & Crafts Day. Who knew pipe cleaners could be lots of fun? The kids made sea animals like fishes, octopi, and star fishes … and you can even “fish” them if you attach a magnet to a fishing pole. Just before the 4th of July they decorated foam sunvisors with their names (using litter glue pens) and stickers. They also made their own marble run out of boxes and popsicle sticks.

Our moms are good at finding free or discounted rates. We’ve taken the kids to the county water park and movies as well ($5 for 9 tickets).