Have Courage and Be Kind – a Cinderella Birthday Party

If I recall correctly, I have already spent thousands of words discussing in detail how passionately I adored the new live-action Cinderella movie. You can read all about it here.

But what you may not know is that another one of the reasons I loved the movie was…

ahem (materialism alert)…

this dress.


The one on the left, not the one on the right.

I mean, I love the one on the right, too, it’s just that I’m personally still too postpartum to wear an ankle-length all-over floral fabric, even if it was broken up in the midsection with a darling pink apron.

Nevermind the fact that my “baby” is almost 2 years old.

ANYHOW, where was I?

Oh, yes, the dress on the left.

It just basically sent me into sentimental hysterics before I was ten minutes into the movie. Don’t judge, mkay? Wardrobes speak to me. Always have. Always will. Even if I joined a nunnery!

Therefore, well after the movie had concluded – all the way home, in fact – my mind was sort of racing, daydreaming intently about how I could find such a dress for Rebekah.

It is, after all, one of my favorite ways to celebrate girlhood, this adorning of my daughters in frocks that pay homage to the timelessness and beauty of being little and free and pure. It’s such a short season. Let’s frame it in a floral print and a bit of lace, yes?

And, just like that, before I could really consciously make the decision, the “Rebekah of Sunnybrook Farm” birthday party I had been planning for my soon-to-be 6-year old was kicked resolutely to the curb and a new vignette was replacing it.

Goodbye, gingham and haybales and overalls and teacup pigs.

Helloooooo, Cinderella!!!


First things first, where in the world was I going to find a dress like Ella’s for this party?

I could hardly sleep that night, I was so excited, and well after my family had dozed off, after perusing all my favorite stores for a suitable dress, I withdrew to Facebook and shared the above photo with my little friend, Leslie (“little” as in much younger than me, much smaller, and much like a tiny, beloved pixie that I would keep in my cupboard, if I could).

Leslie has always shared my love for nostalgia and vintage, and I have long felt that she, young whippersnapper though she be, might rival me in her ability to find all the stuff that must be bought on the internets. Thus, if anyone could help me out or, at the very least, sympathize with my plight, it would be her.

And, on this night, she totally won the title of Internet Shopping Queen. In one fell swoop, she dethroned me and I now will forever bow in reverence to my successor.

Because, before the night was up, Leslie had somehow miraculously found THE EXACT FABRIC of the dress in the movie and had promised to sew up a dress for me.


Yes, sure, the fabric was in Great Britain, and, okay, it was $36 per yard (more than I even paid for my couch upholstery!), and, granted, Leslie lives in Kentucky and this entire project would have to be done through the mail, but…


how often does a girl get the chance to have the exact same dress as the actress portraying the younger version of Cinderella in a blockbuster movie???

(Leave me alone. I know I’m a weirdo).

Obviously, I was giddy with my peculiar brand of excitement, and the following Cinderella party sprang forth from that first night of scheming on the internet.

The following week, I proceeded to purchase a “Have Courage and Be Kind” print at Etsy.

I next bought a ceramic goose at Hobby Lobby. (Because…duh…have you seen the movie??)

I then began to pressure my amazing friend, Tammy, who HATES making cake balls, into making thirty cake ball pumpkins.

And it was sometime after purchasing the goose, I think, that I realized I had better get more bang for my buck and make this another SISTER party (like this one that we did two years ago!).

Betsie and Rebekah celebrate birthdays only nine days apart, and it just seemed crazy this year to invest in two separate girl parties when we could do this one big shindig together.

Leslie quickly began scouring the internet for another fabric that would coordinate with Rebekah’s dress and soon added another Cinderella-inspired frock to her sewing line-up and…

well, the rest is most definitely history.

Wanna see?



First, I obviously have to show you the dresses.

Leslie mailed them to us by post in this gorgeous packaging that may or may not have made me cry, a personalized garment bag for each girl, along with two little mice boasting ears made of matching dress fabric (I know, right?!)…


And the actual dresses are everything I hoped they would be, lightweight and gorgeous and comfy and perfect.

I paid for the fabric and supplies and shipping and Leslie wrote the rest off as “an experimental prototype” (a.k.a. the sweetest and most generous birthday gift ever), but if you have wealth of any sort and would like to have a Cinderella dress custom-made for your little girl, Leslie is offering a very limited number of these in her new Etsy shop, My Dear Poppy.

I cannot praise my friend’s work highly enough and I am SO VERY proud of her. You can find her – and the dresses! (and lots of cute vintage-inspired baby clothes!) – by clicking here.

Cinderella party

Here’s a picture of just Rebekah in her dress. You’ll see more of Betsie’s dress in the weeks to come! She’s a wiggly little thing and hard to get a picture of. :)

This picture is a little fuzzy, but you get the gist.


Now, backtracking just a bit, before the party started, I had several hours to myself to set everything up.

If you watch the show “Fixer Upper”, this was my JoJo moment, where I had time to myself to create and use my noggin. Many thanks to my sweet friend, Kodi, for understanding a mama’s need for quiet on birthday days by offering to watch my children all afternoon!

First up is the food table, bedecked with pretty flowers from Sprout’s. The butterfly clips were purchased at the $1 bin at Michael’s (and were on sale for 15 cents apiece!), and found a perfect home on a branch that was winding its way around this tree. The “One Shoe Can Change Your Life” sign is from my bedroom, given to me when Mr. Gore proposed to me with a pair of engagement shoes in 2004.

Whoopsie, I’ve never told you that story, have I?…

Someday, I promise.


Here’s some plates and whatnot. This tuh-die-fer chair was my Christmas gift from my mama. You can find it in an assortment of colors here. The little pink table is from my favorite antiques store in the state, The Pink Lily, in Jenks, Oklahoma. You can find the shop on Facebook by clicking here.


The party was set up in front of an old grape arbor that is currently holding up our climbing roses, which, by the way, were blooming brilliantly the week BEFORE this party.

Not so much anymore.



Here’s the dessert table, our antique buffet, dragged outside and heavy-laden with treats and sweets. Tiny cupcakes, mini bundt cakes, raspberry cookies, and lots of chocolates!

One thing I couldn’t really capture on camera were the wooden butterflies tied all along the arbor. They were purchased at Michael’s, spray-painted pink, drilled with a tiny hole and tied up with twine in various lengths. The end result, in our famous Oklahoma wind, was what looked like a dozen pink butterflies fluttering all around the dessert table.

Rebekah was atwitter. “They look like REAL butterflies, flying!!!” she laughed.

“I know!” I cried, daubing my eyes with a hankie.


And here is another of my favorite parts of the party, this precious “Have Courage and Be Kind” print from You Doll Design on Etsy. I framed it with this lovely piece from the Studio Decor Savannah collection at Michael’s (I’m kind of nuts about these frames!), and it will soon be hanging between Betsie and Rebekah’s beds.

A true party keepsake, touting my favorite quotation of the year. Buy one of your own (and see MANY other beautiful prints) by clicking here!

(p.s. I can’t wait to do more business with this company – in fact, I’ve already put in a custom order for August that you guys are sure to love! Stay tuned!)


This little wooden birdy was also purchased at Michael’s. I believe it cost a dollar, and I felt all kinds of crafty when I painted it blue.


Now, I don’t really even want to THINK about the fun I could have had if this birthday party had landed in the fall — it kind of hurts my tummy to consider it — with pumpkins out the wazoo.

I tried to find pumpkins in June, I really did, but alas, even the Asian Supermarket had none. (It’s a long story).

As it was, I grabbed some fake pumpkins from our church’s decorating stash at the very last minute, and they did just the trick.

Again, could we all just applaud Leslie for adding the little mice with Cinderella fabric ears to our birthday package? I can’t even.


Lastly, these floral paper straws that I bought at the last minute were a lovely touch to the party. Thank goodness for Prime shipping! The girls absolutely loved these straws. It’s the little things, truly. To find them at Amazon, click here.


On the menu for the evening was a big plate of chicken salad croissants…


berry-centric fruit salad…


Pepperidge Farm butterfly crackers (a no-brainer, that one!)


along with pimento cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a plate of cheese slices, for Jacques and Gus Gus, of course.


But real-people food is kinda boring, isn’t it? Let’s take a closer look at the desserts.

I made these mini cupcakes from a box and Wilton’s icing mix, but my friend, Tammy, made the fondant bluebirds for me. You can find some like these on Etsy (click here), or if you live in the Tulsa area, you could just ask me to contact Tammy for you. ;) She can make crazy things out of cakes and sugar and such. CRAZY, I tell you!



And here are the little pumpkin cake balls she made, too cute for words.

(And tasty, too! I will never tell you how many of these pumpkins were in my tummy by the time the clock struck midnight).


My mom made miniature versions of her famous “Kentucky Butter Cake” with my mini bundt pan from Williams Sonoma. Find a similar pan by clicking here. And the “Eat Cake” cake server can be found here.


This is my favoritest cookie ever, raspberry rugelach from Merrit’s Bakery in Tulsa. So pretty and perfect with a cup o’ coffee.


At 6:00 p.m., as I was putting the finishing touches on the set-up, our guests began to trickle in, and I was just so tickled when my nieces showed up in costumes.

The children in our family are growing up and are really beginning to get into the spirit of things. I think our fun must just be beginning around here!

Here’s Anna in a darling Cinderella maid costume that she bought with her own money for the party. (You can find it at Etsy here).


And Abigail used her own money to procure these “ugly stepsister” aprons for her and her friend, Katy. HOW CUTE IS THIS?? You can find your own here, and my sister-in-law, Amy, reports that this shop was great to do business with, ensuring that they got their last-minute orders in super-speed time.


By the way, Abigail and Katy are the sweetest girls on the planet and had a really hard time pretending to be mean and ugly. Here they are just being them:


So now that you’ve seen the basic set-up of things…

let’s party!!!

One thing I love about the young Ella in the movie (you know, the one with that FANTASTIC dress!) is that she was not a princess, but just a girl who loved her family and loved her life.

My daughters are not princesses, either, and neither are their friends, but they are little girls, and little girls are DIVINE!

Especially when they’re sitting on old quilts on the lawn, sipping tea and pink lemonade.


The dessert table was, as usual, a big hit…


Betsie was a fan of being allowed to help herself to her own treats. That doesn’t happen every day, you know.

Only every other day.


Here’s my niece, Kate, in a beautiful floral dress, just being her awesome self…


We were also so happy to have Rebekah’s music teacher, Christy, join us for this party.

Not many young ladies would give up a Friday night to party with a group of younglings, and that’s just one of the thousand reasons we love Christy.


And here are my little birthday girls! Eating cake balls and feeling pretty!


So after the girls had snacked and guzzled to their heart’s content, we pulled out our new favorite party trick, led by my eldest niece, Abigail.

Last year at their church, Abigail and her sisters were introduced to the fun of barn-dancing, and it is catching like wildfire ’round here.

These girls can’t get enough of the Virginia Reel!


This dance is so easy and SO much fun!!! These little ones get absolutely dreamy-eyed when they are Virginia Reeling.





And what would a dance be without some boys watching standoffishly from the sideline?


Grandpa wasn’t afraid to join in, though, but he had to have two partners, Shepherd, and my cutie-pie niece, Harper.

Harper, by the way, came dressed in a Disney Cinderella dress, carrying a doll dressed like Cinderella. I was impressed by her thoroughness.


After a couple of dances, we took a break and moved on to cake and presents (and refills of lemonade – it was hot out there!)

I couldn’t find a link for these, but I nearly did a jig when I glanced over during a shopping trip and saw these magic wand candles at Wal-mart. How fortuitous! They were still there, in the baking section, last time I checked.

(psst! If you are reading this from the future, this is June of 2015. I’d hate for you to make a special trip to Wal-mart only to realize that this blog post was written six years ago and that candles are now digital instead of wax. I’m thoughtful like that).


Okay, the following isn’t the BEST picture of Betsie, but…

her dress matches everything in this picture!

It makes my eyes happy!

Doesn’t it make your eyes happy, too? All those pastels…


Rebekah blows out her candles…


Betsie blows out hers…


And then we tossed the cakes over our shoulders so we could move on to the PRESENTS!

I do love a big pile of presents, don’t you? Our daughters were so blessed by many thoughtful and fun gifts from our friends and family.


Rebekah was especially thrilled by this photo album from her dearly beloved cousin, Kate. We call them “You and Me” because they have made up a theme song about themselves and they sing it together whilst skipping through meadows.

“You and me…

“And me and you…”


This is mayhap my favorite picture of Betsie from the night. A present as big as she is!


Have I ever mentioned that I love this crew of kids?

I do.

I really, really do.


There were lots of fun Cinderella gifts at this party. Like this picture book.


I’ll post some Cinderella gift ideas at the end of this blog post.

I’d hate for this blog post to be too short and not have enough shopping links in it, you know?


After the presents were devoured, we just spent some time together, talking, cleaning, dancing and making general merriment.

I love this next picture because I adore my boy Shep and his BFF, Daniel, but also because these hats were NOT set out for the party.

Shep reportedly found them in the sunroom, and next thing you know, he and his friends were birthdaying it up, all on their own.


Well, sweet friends and party lovers, as you can hopefully see for yourself, even though I almost truly DIED from party exhaustion, this turned out to be a great night for all of us, being with friends…


being with family…



and doing it all in the dress of my…er, OUR…dreams.


Happy birthday, Rebekah and Betsie, and many, MANY more.

Oh! And we all lived happily ever after.

The end.


And now, for anyone who is interested, I present to you four fun Cinderella gifts. To find any of these products, just click on the picture:

1. We bought this book for the girls to share. It is a thick, hardcover volume with a soft, velvety feel to it and I think it is really beautiful.

2. Our girls were really excited to receive this small paperback book with images from the movie. Especially when they received two of them!

3. And this “Cinderella Day Dress” by my favorite dress-up clothes company is just the CUTEST. Both girls received one, and they have lived in them since. Little Adventures dress-up clothes are great because they are very comfortable. No scratchy fabrics, no glitter falling all over the house. I’m a huge fan. And this little dress might be my favorite of all that we’ve brought home!

p.s. Here’s a picture of Rebekah in her “day dress”:


4. Lastly, the following product is not one I actually used, but OH how I wanted to! My deepest heart’s desire was to buy this necklace for each of our little guests but, by the end of this party’s planning, I barely had a penny left to my NAME.

However, this would be such a great gift with a great message for any little – or big! – girl in your life. Find them by clicking here.



And that’s REALLY the end. Thanks for partying with us today! I hope this gives you plenty of ideas and inspiration for a Cinderella party of your own. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below or find me on Facebook. Happy endings to you all!

Want to remember or share this party? Pin it!

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A Medieval Birthday Party

I don’t know what you did last weekend, but my son…

my firstborn…

my BABY!!!…

turned 8.

If you’ve been on the internet long, you know that it is a thing for moms to get on Facebook and bemoan the passing of another year of their child’s life and to say cliche things like “Where did the time go??” and “Time flies!!” but, do you know why this is so?


My baby was…a baby!…just yesterday and then I did ring-around-the-rosies with him three times and when I stood up from “we all fall down” and shook my head around a little bit (I dizzy very easily), he was EIGHT.

I can’t make sense of it, and so I do the only thing I can to help me process the phenomenon, and I throw a ridiculous party.

Birthday parties help my mind to stop for a week or two and memorialize what is passing by me so very quickly; in the blur of moments and days, I thrust my hand forward and I grab my child by the shirt collar and I plop them down at a party table with pictures and candles and all the love my heart can manage to serve up in one measly day.

My kids love their parties, but someday they are going to realize that these parties were actually for ME! 

And although this year’s theme wasn’t my first choice, it turned out to be really special and left me full of all kinds of warm and happy feelings.

You see, Gid has wanted a “knight” party for a couple of years now, and after my husband gave me a little bit of guidance on the subject (I was pulling for a different theme and Gideon was obviously trying to make me happy), I decided to go for it, regardless of the fact that the medieval wasn’t really calling to me.

But that’s okay, because moms are in the business of dying-to-themselves, and I eventually found GREAT JOY in giving Gid this party of his dreams.

Of course, it really helped that he and his cousin, Anna (who will turn 8 on April 2) requested to have this party together, adding a fun “princess” factor to the affair, and more importantly, ensuring that the most important element to ANY party would be by my side, and I speak, of course, of my sister-in-law, Amy.

In one of our many back-and-forth e-mails about this shared celebration, I declared to her that “I am never doing a party without you again” and I’m going to do my best to stand by that statement. Amy did her thing an hour away, I did mine and, as usual, it all merged together at my mom’s house in perfect unison.

And since my “thing” was to brainstorm, make the Pinterest board, and gather up decorations and food, I stopped in at Reasor’s the day before the party and let the grocery store tell me what I needed to buy.

“Speak to me, grocery store,” I said. “Present to me the medieval…”

This was a bad idea, because as we all know, grocery stores just want to make money – they don’t really care about you! – and spend money I did. Not a ton of money, mind you, but enough to make me start sweating just a little.

My list grew bigger and bigger as I shopped, but the GOOD thing about this is that, by the time I left Reasor’s, the majority of our party’s food AND decor had been procured, and it had only taken me about thirty minutes.

When you stick with the rustic side of party-throwing and stay away from birthday party companies where paper products and decorations abound, your party finds a way to come to life through the beauty of simple and timeless components.

Like pewter and radishes.

(Radishes were not initially on my list, but they sort of MADE the party. You’ll see for yourself soon).

Anyhow, I might have gotten a little carried away in the produce aisle, but HOW PRETTY are these colors?


Medieval. IMG_3280 Now, before we move on, I feel like it is important for you to see the party site before the party. Which, sorry, leads me to a long story…

Our plan was to have our medieval celebration down at the pavilion by the creek where we have most of our parties. It’s in the woods, it’s beautiful, it makes the perfect backdrop to just about everything, and we all love it there.


It was pouring down rain from morning till night on the day of our party.

And it was chilly.

And here’s yet another reason I love Amy: rather than encouraging me to move the party indoors as common sense would dictate, she supported me in my determination to squeeze our big outdoor party onto the only outdoor space that wasn’t wet, which was my parent’s tiny front porch.

“There’s stone and rock in the background,” I told her over the phone, “and more importantly…”

“…good lighting,” Amy finished for me.

Good lighting is everything, especially if you are like us and like to “go” to your own parties well after you’ve hosted them, when children are tucked into bed and your captured memories are waiting to be viewed and edited on your computer.

So here’s the new party site, and you’ll laugh when you see how we had to squish our 9 children into this area. Our five-year-olds, wedged between the table and the rock wall, barely had room to exhale.

Thankfully, they think we’re normal, so they just play right along, even if rain is pouring just past the edge of the porch that shelters them. Rain is quite medieval, you know. Children would have been wet and cold in a real medieval village. We’re just being accurate.

ALLLLL that to say, this is the porch the kids saw when they came to Grandmother’s house earlier that afternoon. IMG_3290 And, presto chango…

bippety boppety boo…

after a couple of movies in Grandmother’s bedroom…

the next time they came outside…

this is what the porch looked like!!! IMG_3310 Squeal! I love parties! I love surprises!

And finally? After a couple of years or snubbing them? I LOVE KNIGHT PARTIES!!! I’ll break down the menu and details in a bit, but here are a few pictures of the set-up… IMG_3314 IMG_3342 IMG_3317 IMG_3312 Now how about some details?

For the main course of our meal, our plan was to have a giant, roasted turkey. My brother, Jerry, is a master at smoking foods on his Big Green Egg, and he agreed to contribute the bird.


On the morning of the party, his smoker BROKE.

BEFORE he could cook the turkey.

We didn’t know what to do, but Jerry had the genius idea to pick up some rotisserie chickens at Wal-Mart. I would never have thought of that, and even though it pains me, I have to thank my brother for saving the party.

Even though his smoker was the one that almost ruined it.

Now that I think of it, this might have been his plan all along. IMG_3300 We boiled some little golden potatoes for this dish (some pricey little boogers that called to me at Reasor’s) and, after laying down a bed of radish greens next to the chicken, we surrounded the chicken with potatoes and (raw) radishes, not because this is actually a recipe and not because we actually ate all of it together, but because it looked AWESOME.

If you ever throw a medieval party, please, do yourself a favor and let this be your main course. Too easy! IMG_3293 Did I say that I got carried away in the produce aisle at Reasor’s? Because I also got carried away in the bakery, coming home with two round loaves of pumpernickle, two round loaves of sourdough, a loaf of cranberry walnut bread and twelve, giant wheat rolls. IMG_3294 And pears! Glorious pears!

No one ate the brown pears, but…sigh…don’t they look so medieval? Love. IMG_3299 I also got carried away in the cheese section of the grocery store, but that’s okay, because it all tasted so very Gouda. IMG_3298 Grapes. Lots and lots of grapes. We STILL have grapes. This was just 1/4 of the grapes I bought. IMG_3301 Now, another reason our parties come together easily and for little cost is because my mom has some surprisingly random things on hand, like the red goblets and the silver serving pieces and, I don’t know, six little pewter bowls, perfect for holding grapes!!!

Do you have little, pewter bowls hidden away in some forgotten cabinet?

I don’t.

Mom does. IMG_3296 And this is an idea I got off of Pinterest, Pepperidge Farm’s Chessmen cookies. Brilliant! IMG_3302 For the flowers, I spent a goodly amount of time amongst the selection at Reasor’s, finding a mix of bouquets that would draw all of our colors together. Hot pink, red, lavender and purple did just the trick, and made Anna’s seat of honor especially lovely and fit for a queen. IMG_3305 This next idea was also gathered from Pinterest. If I’m the grocery store part of the party, Amy is the craft part, and she whipped these awesome chair-backers up from felt she already had at her house. IMG_3306 She also made the portcullis you see here, fashioned out of duct tape.

I hate messing with duct tape almost as much as I hate doing crafts. I LOVE Amy, for happily taking on these aspects of party life. (I also love her new baby, Jude). IMG_3515 And now…


I present to you the highlight of our party, the pièce de résistance, the “sword in the stone” birthday cake that our friend, Tammy, made IN HER HOME KITCHEN.

Tammy graduated high school with me and lives right down the street in a normal house that does not, as far as I know, have a magical kitchen, and so I can’t fathom how she can do this when I can barely get the icing on a cupcake. She amazes me. Check out this cake!!! IMG_3334 Aside from a couple of bottles of sparkling grape juice (with the labels torn off) and a pewter pitcher of water, this was it!


Possibly cost-effective (if you don’t buy enough fruit for a vegetarian army and enough cheese for a ship full of mice).


Now let’s send in the clowns! We let Gideon and Anna come outside first. I’ll share more on their costumes later, but right now I just need you to understand that, to get these pictures, Amy and I had to be in the yard, in the rain, sloshing through mud from one side of the porch to the other. I couldn’t stop laughing about the ridiculousness of the entire situation.

But the kids LOVED it and they couldn’t believe the new and improved porch. It was like stepping back in time! IMG_3323 IMG_3324 IMG_3325 IMG_3338 IMG_3340 Now. We couldn’t let Gid and Anna dress up in costumes and have the rest of us in jeans and sneakers, amiright?

There was a time a couple of weeks before the party when I was dreaming big and searching at Amazon for medieval costumes for all of us, but when it came down to it, everything we wore to this party was something we already owned or something the kids decided to buy with their own money.

I was especially proud of the wizard costume my husband came up with when he was at his office on the day of the party. He borrowed a baptism robe from the baptistry, he made a staff out of a big stick and a creepy animal skull that Gid’s Granddaddy gave him one day, he painted streaks on his face with shoe black, and he wore jewels on every finger that he bought himself at Dollar General.

This Papa loves his son, for sure, and I love him all the more for it. IMG_3304 When it came to my outfit for the party, I didn’t know WHAT I was going to wear and kept leaving my closet empty-handed…

until, that is, Gideon requested that I dress as a witch.

Done. If you remember, I happened to have a Darth Vader robe in the attic, and my hair is very bushy, especially in the rain. I took a special spooky picture just for Gid. IMG_3588 My niece, Abigail, used her own money to buy this super-cute wizard costume. IMG_3361 When the party was over, we sneaked outside for a more “organic” wizard picture. This girl is growing up so fast. We’re nearing preteen years, so it thrills me that she still likes our kiddy parties. IMG_3603 My daughter, Rebekah, completely balked on the costume I dug out of dress-up our box for her, the “Brave” Merida costume she got two Christmases ago and a snowy, white cape.

She wanted to wear her very favorite “pink dress”, the one that she has worn to almost every party and holiday since 2013, but I stood firm, and when she saw the pictures, she gasped and said “I DO look like a true princess!”

“And what can you learn from that?” I asked her.

“What?” she asked, confused.

“You need to ALWAYS TRUST MOMMY with your wardrobe” I said.

She laughed.

I wasn’t joking. IMG_3347 IMG_3351 And Betsie.

I can’t even.

She wore her “Frozen” Anna-inspired dress from Little Adventures, plus a velvet cloak that was given to us by a friend, and topped it with my own metal flower headband from Anthropologie.

Looking at the pictures, Rebekah said of her little sister, “She looks just like a little meadow princess!” I agree. IMG_3358


All the girls felt especially beautiful because their Grandmother gave them LIPSTICK. Oh the glamour! IMG_3356 We failed to get a good picture of my niece, Kate, outside in her princess costume (she spent most of the party squished against a wall), but here’s one from before the party. I’m jealous because I ALWAYS wanted a hat like that when I was a little girl.


Young Abel made the cutest little knight, donning a tunic that his mommy made out of a pillowcase! He is also wearing a fun dragon cloak that captured the fancy of everyone at the party.


And then there was the squishiest, cutest dragon in all the kingdom, Little Shep. His costume belonged to Gideon many moons ago, from the after-Halloween sale at Pottery Barn Kids. IMG_3372 Now, let the party begin! You don’t expect me to caption all of the following photos, do you? Good. I knew I liked you. IMG_3365 IMG_3390 IMG_3392 IMG_3396


IMG_3406 IMG_3411 After everyone had received their drink, my husband came outside to bless the meal. There were some theatrics involved… IMG_3415 but what I especially loved was noticing the little princesses to the right with their hands clasped in prayer.

Mayhap they are praying for the conversion of all of the wizards and witches at the party, which most assuredly happened. ‘Twas the beginning of a great revival. IMG_3422 IMG_3426   IMG_3423 Moving on, would you like to know a little trick I have?

At some point in every party, I tell the kids to laugh so we can take a happy picture. It’s not a FAKE picture, because there HAS been laughter all throughout the party. I’m just making sure that we can prove it! IMG_3443 The next hour or so was dedicated to a leisurely supper outside, pretending to be medieval.


The young king here was obsessed with blowing this candle out. His mother was obsessed with keeping it lit. IMG_3471 Standing room only on this side of the porch, but Betsie managed to steal a barstool.

If she had tipped back her weight at all, she would have fallen completely off the porch. But the lighting was good, so, there’s that. IMG_3481 Here’s the birthday girl, glowing with girlhood and joy. Methinks she takes my breath away. IMG_3493   Wanna hear something funny?

The day after the party, when I asked Gideon what his favorite thing about the day was, he said, “the radishes”.

I had lost count of how many he ate, but when he burped in my face, I realized that it was exactly twelve.

Kings can be so boorish. IMG_3507 IMG_3517 My nephew, Abel, liked the pears. (I like Abel). IMG_3522 At some point, I got a scary picture of Gid holding his Papa’s weird staff. He thought it was awesome, and I guess I can see his point. If you’re a boy. IMG_3536 Here’s something else funny. Amy told me to peek into the kitchen to see how my daddy was eating. Poor guy.

We took his table.

His chairs.

His peace and quiet.

He’s used to it, I think. :) IMG_3518 After playing around a bit…


we took a few more staged pictures before moving into the warm house. Here is Gid with the magical cake… IMG_3542 And Anna and the cake… IMG_3551 And finally, the entire merry group. IMG_3576 When the house was fast asleep later that night and I was able to take the time to look at each face in the photo, my throbbing feet did a little happy dance… IMG_3582

I can’t imagine now why I ever had a problem with the idea of hosting a medieval party. Because they’re obviously the BEST.

Happy birthday, Anna and Gideon! I wish you both a future filled with joy and fellowship and feasting.

And lots and lots of radishes.


Stay tuned for Part Two, a blog post completely dedicated to the products and costumes featured in this party!

The Dollhouse Effect

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I was tidying up the playroom at my mom’s house and had sat down for a minute in front of her giant three-story-plus-an-attic dollhouse to put the furniture back where it belonged and straighten up the mess.

“How ironically funny,” I thought to myself. “This is basically what I do all day, every day, but on a teensy-tiny miniature scale…”

Put the chairs back in place. Straighten up the slipcovers. Gather up all the tiny bits and pieces and put them in bins or buckets or baskets. Move the porch swing out of the master bathroom and put it back on the porch…

just kidding. That last thing only happened in the dollhouse and has never taken place in my actual house. Yet. 

But, you know what I was really struck by as I sat on my bottom in front of that precious particle-board construction?

If I’m being completely honest, sometimes I can flip this dollhouse anaIogy around, treating my homemaking duties just like I’m a silly little girl arranging her toys.

Meaning, everything must be in its place and look a very certain way or I will go to bed that night concluding that I am a failure on the housekeeping front. And, sometimes, on my most controlling days, after I deep-clean and tidy everything up “just so”, I will have this desperate urge for us all to just leave the house until bedtime so we won’t mess it up again!

“Let’s go drive around, kids,” I’ll be tempted to say. “We’ll, you know, go…look at stuff?…until it maybe gets dark outside?… and then we’ll order take-out and eat it in the car before going home and going STRAIGHT to bed. Yay! Fun times! Family togetherness!”

All because I have arranged my dollhouse how I want it and I don’t want anyone else to play with it for the rest of the day. 

Now, I don’t know if this is a natural inclination that women have wrestled with for centuries, or if it is a new issue that we have picked up in the age of catalogues, television and, oh yes, you KNOW I’m going to say it, Pinterest, but it really does cause a girl to wonder…

When did we start seeing our homes as dollhouses?

When did the roofs we live under become anything other than a shelter to keep us warm and dry and safe from the outside world?

Did Father Abraham’s wife, Sarah (who ALSO had many sons), get bent out of shape when her tent was messy? Did she stay up late arranging her silk, tasseled floor pillows and dreaming of a day when no one would sit on them and smush them out of shape? Did she think her tent looked its very best when it resembled a showcase tent, or a tent-hotel that no one had checked into yet?

And when it boils down to it, is this a neatfreak issue or a “keeping up with the Jones’s” issue or a materialism issue?…

You know, I honestly don’t know the answers to those questions, but I DO know this. Regardless of its origins or motivation, the dollhouse effect feels so very wrong.

It is one thing to express creativity in our homes and work hard to produce a place of beauty to please our eyes, but we can get so weird about it.

For example, while knowing it isn’t true that houses really look like the ones we see on television, we fight for such a house, anyway. And even though it is obvious to us that the dwellings we admire in magazines are nothing but gussied-up dollhouses that have been “staged” for a photo shoot, we continue to compare our homes to them, allowing a needless root of discontentment to spring up in our hearts at how miserably our own castle holds up.

And before you know it, we’ve gone and modeled every room in our home after houses that somebody else told us we should have…

There should be five perfectly fluffed pillows on the couch and a basket of neatly folded throw blankets nearby, and there should be shoe cubbies that keep all of our footwear organized, and the dining table should be gleaming and featuring some sort of gigantic seasonal centerpiece, and the sink should be glistening with nary a dish in sight, and the laundry baskets should be completely empty, and all the clothes in the closets should be organized by color, and there should be a line-up of bright, shiny rainboots at the backdoor, and the toys in the playroom should all be in labeled bins, and there should be three blankets of varying textures and prints layered on the master bed (along with a gazillion shams and throw pillows artfully arranged at the headboard), and the bathroom should be completely untouched with a shelf boasting a giant glass canister of bath salts that we never use because they make the bathtub feel icky and gooey and another canister holding twenty bars of soap, and oh!, then another one filled to the brim with those natural-looking sponges that look so darn pretty in a jar (even though no one in our family uses sponges!), and…


and in the midst of all this stagery, I think we can somehow forget what the purpose of a house is.

To LIVE in, you dummy.

(Sorry, I was talking to myself there, but feel free to include yourself if it applies).

And all the stuff that is inside a house is supposed to make the living more enjoyable and/or comfortable, not become the source of our insanity and stress.

Now, before I go on, I have to assure you that I am not advocating laziness or carelessness, nor am I bashing home decorating and organizing; I deeply value hard work and I love beauty and I crave order and I believe in taking good care of our things and I want to continually teach my kids to respect their loved ones by helping and doing their part around the home.

But I also never, ever want to forget that my family does not live in dollhouse.

We live in a people house, and we’re kind of supposed to live here. And if houses are for living in, then…

couches, by golly, are for sitting on.

Pillows are for smushing up into a ball to make the small of our back feel more comfortable on the couch.

Throw blankets are for unfolding and curling up in.

Dishes are for eating spaghetti on.

Napkins – even the cloth ones! – are meant for wiping our messy spaghetti mouths on.

Tables are for catching the extra spaghetti that falls off of our plate.

Floors are for walking on (and catching the spaghetti that fell off the table).

Beds are for sleeping in.

Laundry hampers exist to hold dirty clothes; no dirty clothes in the world? No laundry hampers.

Bathrooms were created to be the epicenter wherein every manner of our dirtiness is purged and cleansed.

Closets are for hiding our piles of clothes.

Toys are for playing with!!!

And this precious lil’ white farmhouse we built five years ago and moved into with our budding family? This is our home, one that, for the love of Pete, I want to live in and let my family live in.

Which leads me to what I set out to write about today in the first place. With all these things in mind, by the grace of God, I am learning to see the difference between a lazy mess and a beautiful mess, a dollhouse and a real house. Lazy messes are sickening – they make your stomach turn because you know that you can do better and that your family deserves harder work than that.

But beautiful messes, once you learn to let go of that stinky quest for magazine-quality perfection, cause your heart to quicken inside of you as you realize that this…this!…is the reason you work hard as a homemaker in the first place, to give your family the room and the freedom to live.

Beautiful messes happen around good food and lively conversation.

They happen when siblings are taking a splashy bath together.

They happen over art supplies and blank canvases or an empty table and a couple of jars of Play-doh.

They happen over movies in the living room, throw blankets and pillows and popcorn all over the floor.

They happen in a room full of toys that inspire the imagination to soar, where dinosaurs can play with Calico Critters, even though they don’t match.

They happen in sandpiles and mud puddles and snow-covered yards.

They happen when all the decorative pillows are off the bed and families are cuddled up to sleep together.

They happen when we are living life with the ones we love.

And, sometimes, they happen over afternoon cookies and coffee, inspiring you to sit down and share what you’re learning about homemaking with the world.

Grandmother (or “Mother Bear”, as 3-year old Betsie has dubbed her) had come over for the afternoon, and the three of us had sprawled out in the schoolroom to enjoy a snack together. We talked. We laughed. We read books. We lounged. We made crumbs. We made spills. We lived!…













It was beautiful.

And it reminded me that this is why I buy pretty decorations and sweep the floors and keep dishes clean and fluff the pillows and wipe off the table, not so our home can look like a dollhouse or the latest issue of the best home decorating magazine…

but that I might make room for the next beautiful mess.


p.s. If it makes you feel any better about your life, this is what our shoe cubby looks like. I just don’t know where we’d put that one flip flop if we didn’t have it. I’m super glad we paid money for it.



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A Beautiful Girlhood Birthday Picnic (inspired, of course, by Nanny McPhee Returns)


Who is PUMPED for some birthday party posts?!

This is going to be totally out of order, but I can’t wait any longer to share this particular party with you, so it gets to go first. But first, a tiny bit of backtracking…

As my eldest daughter’s 5th birthday approached, I found myself in alternating states of distress and bewilderment.

Still sinking under a lingering postpartum fog, I just could not get it together! My brain was kaput and, two weeks before her June birthday, I still hadn’t nailed down much of anything. State Fair party? Pretty picnic party? Lots of guests? Just the cousins? Meal? Just dessert? Presents? No presents?


I was so heavily annoying myself that I can’t imagine what a bother I was being to my husband, my mom and my party-planning soulmate and sister-in-law, Amy, for not a day went by that I wasn’t discussing and hemming and hawing over what we were or weren’t going to do. It was sincerely obnoxious.

Finally, for the love of Pinterest, after flipping and flopping and switching and swapping, Rebekah’s 5th birthday extravaganza did me a favor and seemingly planned itself for me with a crazy-busy weekend:

On Friday, we attended Abigail’s 10-year old Kit Kittredge party (more on that later!) and stayed the night. Honestly? This would have been enough of a party for Rebekah. We could have put a candle on her piece of cake, sang her the birthday song and called it a day.

On Saturday, we popped over to Grandpa and Grandma’s house in OKC and spent the day swimming. This, too, would have been enough of a party for Rebekah, especially when she saw the giant “Frozen” balloons her Grandma bought as decorations.



On Sunday morning (her actual birthday), before we left for Sunday School, we had a sweet little breakfast in the sunroom together. Again, this would have been enough of a party.


On Sunday evening, we celebrated with our church friends after prayer services by sharing the cake Rebekah had been DREAMING of for an entire year: chocolate with chocolate icing, chocolate chips, marshmallows and M&Ms. This was all for her, a true gift from me (making bizarre custom cakes is not my love language), but when she saw it and thanked me over and over again, I had to admit it was completely worth is.



And SERIOUSLY. I truly could have stopped there and it would have been a fun, blessed family-and-friends-filled weekend of celebratory birthdayness, MORE than enough for anyone, especially a FIVE-year old.

But you guys know me by now.

I needed to have just one more little party, not so much for Rebekah, but for me.

You see, we’d been zipping all over the place all weekend, bookending her birthday around church services, and I just needed to steal another day to celebrate my daughter.

Because, in my heart, birthdays are not just about my children. They’re about commemorating the days when our entire family’s life changed forever. This is big stuff we’re celebrating! And so it is an important personal ritual for me to meditate on the gifts of my children by sweating like a mule while I haul furniture and decorations all over the countryside to host a party that matches up with all the sentimentality of my heart. It’s what I want to do and what I need to do and what I like to do.

And so I did it.

And it turned out to be one of the sweetest days of my life.

The inspiration for this day sprang entirely from one of my favorite movies, “Nanny McPhee Returns”. I am so captivated by the Nanny McPhee movies, but the second one in particular is extremely dear to me. I love the set, the costumes, the scenery, the story, the casting and, did I mention the costumes? I die.

And every time I watched it and observed the family’s celebratory picnic in their wheat field, my heart swelled up with this longing to follow suit.

Well, with a very special birthday to celebrate and the perfect pink dress hanging in our closet, the time was right! Watching the movie once more and taking extra notice of the details, I made a few purchases and, added to a mountain of stuff I gathered from my own house, the perfect scene was set for our own Nanny McPhee picnic.

But, you guys, what really tickled me the most about our evening had to be the “Beautiful Girlhood” theme that sprang upon us at the last minute, adding a sweet rite-of-passage element to this party that nearly bowled me over. I could share all the details of how it came about and how it all centered around a heavily-discounted flower-picking basket that we stumbled upon at Williams Sonoma, but I’ll spare you and just tell you what we did:

After spending much of the day setting up in the surprise (and rather remote) location while the kids played in my parents’ backyard and my mom cooked up a storm, we all started getting gussied up in our Nanny McPhee inspired clothing.

Once everyone was dressed, Mr. Gore, Rebekah and I stayed at the house while the rest walked to the party and dropped a trail of flowers along the way that would lead Rebekah to them.

Twenty minutes later, with the flower-gathering basket on her arm, the three of us prepared to depart down (and go ahead and make fun of me) “THE FLOWER PATH TO GIRLHOOD”. Getting down on my knees, I looked into my 5-year-old daughter’s eyes and told her that, once she collected every flower, she would not only be at her surprise party in the woods, she would be a “big girl”.

Oh, man. Call me silly, call me sentimental, call me melodramatic, I don’t care, for, other than my wedding walk down the aisle, this was one of the sweetest and most meaningful walks I have taken! Not to mention that it fully captured the fancy of our girl who is entering the world of “beautiful girlhood” right before our eyes.

Sniffle, sniffle.

I’m so pleased to share our party with you today and, with it, the reminder that life is beautiful and so worth celebrating.


One of the biggest parts of this party was the clothes.

Rebekah’s girlhood has centered so much around this dress, for which I am forever indebted to my sister-in-law, Amy, who gave it to us after we accidentally stole it out of her dress up box. (Long story, but THANK YOU, Amy).

Vintage Gunne Sax, it makes Rebekah feel so beautiful and she wears it about every other day.


I curled her hair with a curling iron (first time!) and I let her borrow my floral metal headband from Anthropologie…


There is no doubt that much of her joy on this day had to do with how her dress and hair made her feel pretty and celebratory.

We all need days like that, don’t you think?


And I was so thrilled by everyone’s clothes! One thing I love about my mom and Amy is that they “get me” and, never making me feel stupid, they just show up in the perfect ensembles to please my silly eyes and heart.

While I put some last-minute things together, Amy took some fun pictures of the kids in front of the corn crop.







Finally, after a day of hard work and preparation, the hour had arrived.

Whisking Rebekah inside the house, her siblings and cousins fulfilled their task and began laying down the trail of flowers…



I’ll show you the rest tomorrow. :)

A Surprise Valentine Breakfast

I’m glad you guys seem to love me so much, because, after blogging for 3 years, one thing is very clear: there is no rhyme or reason to this blog.

And speaking of love, while I’m plugging away at writing up some memories from Gid’s 7th birthday, I thought it would be a good time to FINALLY share the pics from our Valentine celebration.

You know, the one from last month.

Pinterest is laughing at me right now, isn’t it? Valentine’s Day is so last season.

But that’s okay because, honestly, I’m behind in every area of my life right now, and this has actually led to something GREAT.

As I usually have the house decked out for V-day on February 1st, I felt pretty much like a miserable failure when the week of love arrived and my house was not dressed for the occasion.

Rebekah was throwing up all week long, and things just weren’t working out for me; there was no possible way I could have the house cleaned up and decorated by the 14th.

Something had to be done.

If only I had a completely empty room just sitting around that I could put ALL of our Valentine stuff in…

well, I did.

The sunroom!

Recently emptied of all of its furniture and cuteness to become Jake’s temporary dog-home, it was the perfect place to hold a little party for the kids.

The sunroom is separated from our kitchen by an antique door, and what excited me the most was that, by covering the door’s large window, I could completely deck out the room and have it ready without the kids ever seeing it.

The entire day before Valentine’s Day, they had NO idea that there was a party waiting for them just beyond that door.

But I knew. And I was pretty giddy about it.

There was nothing really spectacular about this party. I already owned all the decorations, the books, and the games, and the breakfast menu was our typical pancakes and bacon.

The fun was in the surprise and in taking a moment in our day to celebrate a holiday together.

Take a look!


I hid out in the sunroom and took pictures of the kids when they saw the party table…







Mr. Gore pretended to be surprised, too. Please notice the completely trashed-out, non-decorated room behind him that matched the entire first floor. But NOT the sunroom. :) Sigh. I love the sunroom. And Mr. Gore.


I say this every time, but I think this was my favorite party ever…









We ended up our breakfast by reading our little collection of Valentine books together. (The Day It Rained Hearts is our favorite!)



And then we opened our valentines to each other. The night before, Mr. Gore and I made handmade cards for each kid with pictures of us and them, and they were a huge hit.




I would show a picture of Rebekah with her valentine, but she threw up on it right after this, and all over our party table.

But, still. It was a great morning.

And best of all, it completely inspired me to keep the sunroom empty, so that, during these crazy years with little ones underfoot, I’ll always have a safe place to celebrate our holidays.

Did I mention that I love the sunroom?…


Coming next to a sunroom near you: a Nursery Rhyme party! (maybe).

A Sock-Hoppin’ Valentine Party

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and you know what that means…

party time!

If you’re new to Mrs. Gore’s Diary, let me fill you in on the past 10 years. Since becoming a grandmother, my mom has made it a practice to host fun “class parties” for her grandkids. It gives the kids – all of whom are homeschooled – a chance to celebrate with their cousins, and it is such a blessing to their mamas who usually just have one job: show up!

The parties vary. We’ve had Easter parties, Halloween parties, a Christmas baking party, a 12-12-12 party at 12:12 p.m….

but we always have a Valentine party.

I think it must be one of her favorites, and I can’t remember a Valentine’s Day growing up when my mom didn’t deck out the table with special candies and gifts; because of her, I’m a pretty big fan of February 14th myself! Especially now that I have children of my own.

Last year, she decided to give Valentine’s Day a twist and hosted a simple and fun 1950’s-inspired party. The celebration was at my house, and the children were instructed to dress in whatever 50’s-style clothes we could come up with in our closets. And Mom took care of the rest!


Before the party started, we took a few family pictures in the dining room. Gideon’s “costume” was easy: jeans and a white t-shirt. Rebekah (left) wore a shirtdress with a pink cardigan, and Betsie (in the middle) was the perfect size for her cousin Abigail’s poodle skirt from a Halloween long, long ago…


I have to show this one, too, because when Rebekah saw it as I was going through pictures for this post, she laughed a little and said “Oh, my hair is always flowing like that…”

Confident, much?


and Amy’s crew (Abel, Anna, Kate and Abigail) looked so precious with their neck- and hair-ties and cardigans!


Anna and Gid, Valentines for life…or at least until they realize they’re too related to get hitched. 


“Best fweinds” Kate and Rebekah.


My mom (a child of the ’50’s) whisked Gideon to the back to give him a real 1950’s ‘do. Here’s the front…


And here’s the back.

(I was already in love with this boy but this hairdo got me all shook up!)


The kids congregated around the dining table…


where Amy (playing waitress) came to take their burger orders.


On the menu was heart-shaped hamburgers (you have to admire a woman who can make shapes out of raw meat), french fries…


and yummy, beautiful strawberry milkshakes!


 The meal was served ’50’s style in burger baskets lined with Valentine tissue paper.


And now a few pictures of children happily eating and slurping…





When lunch was over, it was time to play some games.

First, the limbo…


then, a rockin’ rollin’ dance party…


then a hilarious, knee-slappin’ game of spin the bottle…


and then we played Valentine Bingo.

Each child was given a Bingo card (free printables here!) and a pile of mini marshmallows to mark their numbers…



whoever won got to pick a toy from a prize table my mom set up. And, although this isn’t always our game-playing philosophy, each child won TWICE, until all the prizes were gone. It was, after all, a holiday!


After Bingo, Amy gave a bubble-gum-blowing demonstration…

IMG_0025Then all the kids were given a piece of bubble gum to experiment with…


after some perseverance (and maybe a few tears?), Abigail succeeded in blowing her first bubble! Obviously, my mom’s parties are as educational as they are fun.


And then we wrapped the party up with some more fun pictures…




Pinterest is full of breathtaking and professional parties, and while they are inspiring, they can also be kind of intimidating; I hope this encourages you to remember that laid-back and fuss-free parties still exist and that you don’t have to empty your college fund to celebrate with the children in your life. Come to think of it, I think I prefer my mom’s parties to the professionals’..

maybe because they remind me of growing up, safe and happy, under her nurturing wing.

Can’t WAIT to see what she comes up with this year!


For more Valentine inspiration, click on the Valentine tab in my blog’s menu or visit my Pinterest Valentine board.

A Halloween Party in the Woods

A Halloween Party in the Woods

Two years ago, probably a day after Halloween, I was struck with another of those impossible-to-ignore urges to throw a specific party for my favorite little kiddos.

A Halloween party.

In the woods.

And I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like…

I saw a spread in Country Living once (hey look! I found it: click here) featuring an outdoor Halloween party inspired by festivities of yore where costumes were less “dress-like-your-favorite-Disney-princess” and more festive and Halloweenish. Here’s an example of one of the antique costumes at the party:


I was completely taken with the idea, and tucked it away in the back of my brain where it sat for years. Every Halloween, I would think about it and pine for such a party and costumage (you can go ahead and add that word to your handy-dandy-Mrs. Gore-Dictionary); and as Halloween 2011 drew to a close, I made a decision. We would have our old-school Halloween party next year, or I would die trying.

Only one problem.

Vintage Halloween clothes are ‘spensive. And rare. And just like there weren’t a lot of WWII-kids-party supplies out there when it was time for Gid’s 6th birthday, I had trouble finding any reproductions of old-school Halloween clothes on the market today. I know, right? Cray-cray.

So we did the next best thing and bought every Halloween dress and accessory that Cracker Barrel had to offer. Every year, they sell an assortment of black, orange, purple or gold dresses with lots of tulle, and by the time we bought them after Halloween, they cost about as much as an Arby’s value meal.

Thus, for a full year, my Mom had bags of poofy dresses and funny hats hidden in her closet, waiting to surprise the children on a beautiful October afternoon in 2012.

Oh, and there was one bright orange shirt for Gideon from the hunting section at Wal-Mart.

And here were the goals of our party: 1. The entire concept had to be a surprise – when the kids arrived at Grandmother’s house for the party, we wanted them to have NO IDEA where they would be going or what they would be wearing, 2. We wanted to allow them to walk through the woods to the party alone – with the oldest being 8, this would be a big and memorable deal for them (and Amy would shadow them with her camera, of course!), and 3. Have a festive and magical hole-in-the-wall-type party all set up when they arrived.

And shiver me broomstick, we did it! I will admit, I almost died of fatigue before this party even started, loading and unloading mountains of supplies, single-handedly arranging all those haybales and pumpkins, and then there were the three giant wasps nests we discovered above the party table about an hour before go-time (my Mom is a rockstar and slayed every single one of them without fear)…

but this afternoon will forever be cherished in my heart as one of my favorites. The kids loved it. And I loved watching them love it. Take a look…

Amy made these labels that we taped over vintage milk bottles and filled with assorted candies.

Amy made these labels that we taped over vintage milk bottles and filled with assorted candies. We placed one at each child’s seat and they passed them around so they could sample all of the different flavors.

Welcome to our Halloween party in the woods!

Welcome to our Halloween party in the woods!

A sparkly bat greeted our little guests.

A sparkly bat greeted our little guests.

I lined the pathway with pumpkins we borrowed from a nearby farm and filled in the path with crunchy leaves. Very fun!

The pathway was lined with pumpkins we borrowed from a nearby farm and was filled in with crunchy leaves. Very fun! And free!!

We made a simple sacklunch for each child and had it sitting on a real plate with real silverware - we wanted this party to have an authentic tea-partyish feel, but heavy on Halloween.

We made a simple sacklunch for each child and had it sitting on a real plate with real silverware – we wanted this party to have an authentic tea-partyish feel, with a heavy emphasis on Halloween.

The table was simple, but festive, and very easy to put together.

The table was simple, but festive, and very easy to put together.

Donuts from a Tulsa bakery - I considered for two seconds making some from scratch, but Mrs. Gore ain't got time for that.

Donuts from a Tulsa bakery – I considered for two seconds making some from scratch, but Mrs. Gore ain’t got time for that.

Very rustic caramel apples, speared through with a twig from the backyard.

Very rustic caramel apples, speared through with twigs from the backyard.


You can’t see them very well, but we also hung black bats and festive lights from the ceiling.


The kids LOVED their surprise costumes. Each one was different (but similar), and each girl had a funny hat to wear (Gideon got a black superhero mask). Anna’s hat had a giant spider on the top, but still looked very beautiful and fancy.

Funny...Amy and I dressed in all black and wore funny hats and accessories with absolutely NO intention of looking like witches. But we totally look like witches.

Funny…Amy and I dressed in all black and wore funny hats and accessories with absolutely NO intention of looking like witches. But…we totally look like witches.

Time to walk down the wooded path to the party! Everyone lined up, including our very uninvited guest, Batman the Cat.

Time to walk down the wooded path to the party! Everyone lined up, including our very uninvited guest, Batman the Cat. More on him later.


Marching to Halloween! I was pretty giddy about this part of the party…


Which way do we go?…


That way!!


They found us! And good thing, too, because I was about to eat all their candy.


Ready to party.

I swear to you, just like our witch costumes were accidental, we did NOT invite my parents' cat, Batman, to our party. He followed the kids, and was by far our best Halloween decoration.

So. The cat. I swear to you, just like our witch costumes were accidental, we did NOT invite my parents’ cat, Batman, to our party. He appeared out of nowhere and followed the kids, but was by far the best Halloween decoration we had at our party. Way to go, Batman!


I had to take a minute to get a picture of Amy and her girls (and the cat). They all looked so beautiful! (You too, Batman).


And I have to brag on my party guests…


they are used to their weird Mama/Auntie, so they gladly took a few “fake party pictures” for my blog before digging in to their treats.


I’ve never been so proud. :)

Rebekah and Kate enjoy their party and some lively conversation.

Rebekah and Kate enjoy their candy and some lively BFF conversation.


After their meal was consumed, Grandmother had a special game planned for them where they had to find special treats and surprises she had hidden in the woods.


It took some earnest searching…


but all the treasures were eventually found…


and the rest of the evening was leisurely spent, playing, talking and daydreaming. One of my favorite things about children is that they need very little to entertain them. Just give them the great outdoors…


and some playmates…


and they’ll stay happily occupied for hours.


As a fittingly full moon began to shine through the trees…


our Halloween party in the Woods mozied to an end and we made our way back to Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house…


Oh yes!

With a huge mess to clean up?


But our Halloween-lovin’ hearts were oh so full and happy…

especially Batman’s.


Happy Halloween, dear friends!

A “Tea For Two” Birthday Party

To keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, find us on Facebook!


On Saturday morning at 11:00, after working harder than I think I did for my own wedding, we welcomed guests into our completely-transformed house for a special “Tea for Two” birthday party for our little girls, one of whom was turning 4, one of whom was turning 2…

get it? Tea 4 2?…

How sad is it that I sprang out of bed late one night to write the name of this party down, and then clapped my hands with glee and dubbed myself a “genius”?…

Don’t answer that.

Anyhow, why was our house transformed? Where was our typical and expected party backdrop of the great outdoors?

Four words: Tornado watches. Rain. Oklahoma.

But after my initial disappointment over moving our par-tay indoors, I discovered that this was quite a blessed turn of events, and I was able to spend days setting everything up “just so”, rearranging our entire abode like it was a life-sized dollhouse, cleaning, scrubbing, baking, and decorating like there was no tomorrow. And, by the grace of God, I actually had fun doing it.

Little girls are some kind of magic, aren’t they? I’m still giddy over this entire party, full of sweets and treats and flowers and nostalgic sugar-and-spiceness. Take a look…

(but first, if you want a little background music while you peruse our party, just push play. We love you, Doris!)

I am sorely tempted to leave my living room set up this way…wouldn’t it be nice to wake up to a beautiful dessert table every morning?…

new tea for two

I purchased the old screen at a vintage show in Tulsa a couple of weeks ago, and can’t wait to see how many ways I can use it. The wooden “Tea for Two” letters were purchased at Michael’s and spray-painted a light aqua color, and then hung with crocheted ribbon and twine.

party table

On the treats menu: strawberry cake and cupcakes (from a box) topped with Paula Deen’s delicious strawberry icing, mini Kentucky butter cakes, Paula Deen’s lemon blossoms, strawberry shortbread cookies, miniature buttermilk pies, raspberry tarts, Pepperidge Farm butterfly crackers, and fresh strawberries.

side view

To decorate, I used pink roses (of the regular and miniature variety) and baby’s breath, teapots and teacups, vintage handkerchiefs, doilies, and our typical collection of cake and treat stands. If you have any questions about where I purchased anything, please ask in the comments section and I’ll try to help you locate what you’re looking for.


We came up with the raspberry tarts recipe “on the fly”, but as they seemed to receive more compliments than anything else, I thought I’d share the “recipe”: phyllo cups from the grocery store freezer section, instant vanilla pudding, canned whipped cream, and a raspberry. You are so welcome.

raspberry tarts

Since the only tea we actually served was iced with lots of sugar in it and guzzled from huge glasses, we put the cupcakes in teacups to go with our party theme. So easy. And the cupcake toppers were made with toothpicks from Cracker Barrel (they have pretty tops), and red twine tied in a little bow. Also…so easy.


We only have approximately 400 cupcakes left…

cupcakes 2

Inspired by this party, I made bagged lunches for each child with a brown paper bag, craft paper from Michael’s (that somehow exactly matched my girls’ dresses), a white doily and red twine. Inside was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a little pouch of raisins.


Simple and sweet!

lunch and lemonade

We set up a drink station on the vintage rolling cart we keep in our pantry and served raspberry lemonade, sweet tea, and water. The mason jar lids were purchased here (TOO cute!!), and the aqua-striped straws were purchased here.


Any of the paper decorations you see are from the Martha Stewart line of party supplies and were also purchased at Michael’s.


The old buffet in our dining room served as a nice gift table, and a wooden “2” and “4” indicated whose gifts belonged where (these numbers were also used in the girls’ birthday pictures)…

gift station

This precious birthday-card-download was purchased here. All I had to do was print it on cardstock, cut it out, back it with our extra paper from Michael’s and frame it!


Don’t you think gift tables look especially nice when they are full of GIFTS from loving family and friends?! Me too.

gift table with gifts

The party schedule was pretty simple. While the girls were having their pictures taken (by my amazing sister-in-law, Amy), Mr. Gore took all the party guests upstairs to teach them a fun birthday song to sing for the birthday girls. When everyone was finished, we set the girls on our barstools and brought all their friends downstairs…

stoolsThe song was hilarious, and so much fun. Thanks a million, Mr. Gore!

kids singing

And the girls loved being serenaded by their friends!

happy girls

Then, before the girls got dirty and sticky like I knew they would, we blew out candles…

Betsie blowingFirst, Betsie Fair…

Betsie candlesthen Rebekah Sunday.

Rebekah candles

Lunch was then served on the front porch…



and it was good.

good eats

After lunch, the kids were free to partake of the treat table and to play in the designated areas we set up for them, the girls in the super-girly sunroom, and the boys in the upstairs nursery…

tea party

It was a beautiful day to celebrate two of the greatest gifts God has given us…

2 and 4


Tea for two…

Rebekah and Betsie

and two for tea.


Want to remember this idea? Pin it!

a birthday tea party


To see more of my inspiration for this party from Pinterest, click here.

Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party, Part 3 – The Battle

Well, we’ve finally come to the end of this series featuring my 6-year old son’s “army” or “war” party, and I have to thank you all for sticking with me as I have revisited and celebrated this super-fun and special day in my family’s life…

you are literally the best. (said in my best Chris Traeger voice).

So as I told you before, I had the party part of this party down – the menu, the decorations, the vibe – they all came together quite nicely (and thankfully, with little expense). And I knew we were going to have a “war”…

in fact, if you’ll remember, that was how I sold this party to my son in the first place. And I had made  a big, big deal about it. We talked about it nearly every day.

But secretly…I was stumped.

How in the world were we going to actually have this so-called war? With a group of Preschoolers, Kindergarteners and an 8-year old, no less…

So I did what any self-respecting female would do.

I dumped this part of the party on my unsuspecting husband, nonchalantly mentioning that I needed help with this one teensy little bit of the planning.

He accepted the challenge…

but then stalled for weeks.

Secretly, he was stumped, too.

And then, in a stroke of last-minute genius, he called me up with a full list of party game ideas for me to choose from (including the paper airplane activity we also did), and the minute he mentioned the following idea, I knew he had struck gold:

Operation: Rescue Abigail

(Abigail is Gideon’s eldest cousin and beloved friend)

Two teams: bad guys and good guys.

Adults on each team to help the kids.

One prisoner in distress.

Bad guy weapons: big marshmallows dipped in all-purpose flour.

Mission: rescue Abigail (or other prisoner) from the bad guys. If you get hit with a marshmallow (which leaves a huge flour mark on your clothes), you  have to run to the field hospital and get bandaged. Then you can return to the battle.

Could we all just give a round of applause to Mr. Gore for coming up with this awesome game? We played 2 or 3 rounds of it, and it was too. much. fun. Kids this age (at least in my house) love nothing more than tying people up and saving them, playing “doctor”, pretending to be good guys defeating bad guys…my husband somehow incorporated all of Gideon’s favorite pastimes into one awesome party game that made his little 6-year old heart soar. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

For older kids, a capture-the-flag type game would have been ideal, but this game perfectly suited our younger crowd. If you are planning a “war” or “army” party of your own, and have any more questions about the details of this game, please do so in the comments section. I will make sure to get back with you as soon as I get the chance.

Now how about some pictures?…

Gid was in character long before the party began…


Ready for battle, Katerbelle? Yes, SIR!


Mr. Gore led the kids in a few pre-battle drills to start off, lining them up…


and leading them in a rousing rendition of “I’m in the Lord’s Army”. This was a CHRISTIAN war party, mind you…




jumping jacks…


Let’s do this thing.


Our pretty nurses had the hospital ready to go, eager to come to the aid of the wounded once the game commenced…


First prisoner: Abigail. And the fact that we played several variations of this game with different prisoners was because this fun-loving girl wasn’t content to just be a prisoner. She wanted in on the battle action, too! Her Daddy – the baddest of the bad guys – led her to a tree in the nearby woods to tie her up.


I now present to you…

Operation: Rescue Abigail, starring Mr. Gore – the goodest of the good guys – and his army of tiny soldiers!!!




they’ve been spotted and attacked! Run to the hospital! Quick!




our nurses sprang into action, doing their best to get the soldiers back to the front as soon as possible, giving each soldier a bandage and a candy pill…





but, with a little teamwork and perseverance, they did it! Good prevailed, and Abigail was rescued.


and the “good guys” felt like macho superstars.


Next battle…

Operation: Rescue the Birthday Boy. Mr. Gore was probably very glad to add a quick-as-lighting 8-year old to his team. He rallied his troops, gave them a few tips, and the 2nd battle began…



(sidenote: can anyone spot my Daddy in the next picture? This is why people use camouflage. It actually works!)




and lickety-split, Gideon was saved.

Then, in the scariest and most melodramatic battle of the night (our soldiers and nurses were taking dramatic liberties with the game by this time), our two hospital nurses were taken prisoner by the scariest bad guy in the woods…



Things got ugly for our soldiers during this battle…


but our field nurses were so brave and helpful in the face of duty…




reviving our soldiers on the spot so they could return to battle and save the hospital nurses!



which they did, right as dusk set in. The hospital nurses were a bit shaken up, but a quick stay at the hospital fixed them right up…


and I am happy to report that, by the end of all of our battles, every soldier was still accounted for, though they all looked a little more ragged than they had before…



Our rescue operations…and thus, the biggest part of my son’s party…had been a huge success.


A few more notes on our war party:

1. It dawned upon me and Amy both (sometimes we share a brain!) that an activity like this doesn’t have to be saved for a birthday party. This was just a super fun night for all the kids and families involved, and it would have been even easier to throw together if we hadn’t been trying to do birthday cake and presents and spend as much time as possible with the birthday boy. You could do this with so many different themes: spy games, princes and princesses, cowboys and outlaws…the possibilities are extensive. Then, on birthday party days, you could just kick back with your family, have a cake and a few gifts and call it a night. I’ll be mulling this over…

2. I also wanted to tell you that, by the end of the battles, all the kids were congregated at the hospital, playing their little hearts out. It looked like an ant hill. Which means that I will probably be setting up the hospital sometime soon for a fun play day. I’ll share more on that in the future!

3. Thank you again for indulging me for this week-long series and for all the sweet words you’ve shared. I love your comments and encouragement so much and thank God for you, always.

And good news – I have some VERY unbirthday blog posts coming up next week – stay tuned!


To read about all the ideas and products that went into this party, click here.

Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party – The Components

I thought I would start this “war” party series (read the “prequel” here!) by sharing all of the decorations, ideas and products in one place so you can have easy access to links and inspiration, should you ever choose to host your own WWII party.

You know…cause lots of people have WWII parties.

(awkward silence).

Anyhow, let’s get started!

About an hour and a half before the party, Amy and I (but mostly Amy) painted this huge sign on the back porch at my parent’s house. We used brown craft paper, poster paint, and foam paint brushes. By the way, she free-handed this, my insanely talented sister-in-law.

Once it was dry, my Mom and I drove down to the party site by the creek to hang it up. There was only one problem: Oklahoma wind. Sweeeeeeepin’ down the plain. We couldn’t even hang this sign where we wanted to (it was so windy, we couldn’t even get it in the air, let alone fasten it!) and had to rearrange the entire pavilion area to accommodate it. Even then, it still tore (razzle frazzle…), but Amy saved the day with lots of tape and thumbtacks. She’s a genius, and my party sidekick for life.

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

Other than the torn poster, the “Mess Hall” was decorated with vintage-inspired patriotic elements, authentic WWII helmets and ammo boxes, our typical galvanized tubs and cake stands, old metal pans and colanders, and vintage recruiting posters. I will share links to many of the products we used at the end of this post.

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

We tried to keep things simple and to at least pay homage to the authentic. You could really go nuts and buy lots of disposable camo and/or army stuff for a party like this – but a roll of white paper towels, and some disposable baking pans from Wal-Mart absolutely did the trick. Our biggest conundrum, however, was HOW to hide Crock-pots. At our remote-ish location, Crock-pots were the only way to keep the food warm, but we just couldn’t bear the thought of them being on the serving table. Amy came up with the winning solution by wrapping diaper boxes in craft paper and cutting holes in the top – this is the stuff that just cracks me up about our parties…my Grandmother, visiting for the week, thought we were absolutely nuts! But I’m sure that Mess Halls in the ’40’s served ALL of their food out of paper-wrapped diaper boxes. Right? Right?…

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

Forks were kept handy in washed tin cans that had their labels removed…we were going to use these for drinking vessels, but my Mom kept cutting her fingers on them, so we scrapped that idea.

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

The menu was simple and easy and, again, at least payed homage to the authentic. We had to find a way to tip our caps to what a soldier might eat during WWII while still actually feeding our guests, many of whom were under the age of 6. We settled on little smokies, macaroni and cheese, biscuits, and a variety of cookies. And two days before the party, I discovered that there is such a thing as gummi army men – I had to throw them on the menu at the last minute (p.s. I love you Amazon Prime!). They looked like funny green beans in the colander I served them in, so I took one out to take a picture, just for you! (I just thought you should know that I’m thinking of you guys, even when I’m partying and windblown and frazzled).

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!



Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

Here are a few pictures of the other side of the “Mess Hall”. Gideon received this medic bag for Christmas, and it is such a nice bag for an extremely reasonable price. He stores all of his Nerf ammo in it on a normal day, but on WWII party day, it served as decor!

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

And these are some of the vintage recruiting posters I printed off from an image search online. I printed them on white cardstock and taped them to a red photo matte from Hobby Lobby. So cheap and easy, and now I’m not stuck with 5 red picture frames that I don’t need. Or 5 huge war posters, for that matter!




And…my personal favorite part of the entire party…the part that I dreamed of at night and squealed about when it became a reality…was the Red Cross station, where wounded soldiers (during our “war” game – I’ll share more on that later this week) came to get bandaged before returning to the front lines…

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

My husband and I (yes, he is a very selfless and amazing man) made the Red Cross backdrop the night before the party with a large canvas drop cloth, 2 yards of red felt fabric, and fabric adhesive. He used his math skills to perfectly measure and cut out the cross for me – I seriously could not have made this without him!


And an old white rolling cart from our pantry held all of our medical supplies, including a first aid kit full of gauze bandages and bandaids, and 3 jars that (eventually) held candy “pills”. This station was a huge, huge hit. The kids loved it! (Which you’ll see in the days to come – I have lots of pictures to share).



And here are some links to products that we used (all of which I highly endorse) for the party. Click on the pictures to be directed to these products at Amazon:

1. As our little guests first began to arrive, to fill in the time as we waited for everyone to get there, Amy painted faces for me with camo “make-up”. After doing a lot of research, this product seemed like the best choice, and I am SO glad we went with it. It went on so easily, dried fast (but not hard and crackly), stayed put, and was pretty easy to remove with wet wipes.

2. The gummy army men were too fun! Even the adults loved them and were happy to take some home. They are green apple flavored and very yummy. To purchase 5 lbs. of these at a local candy store, it would have cost me $45. When I bought them at Amazon, they cost less than $10.

3. The Red Cross medicine box I used for the “hospital” is one that we already owned and store all of our kids doctor toys and costumes in. I love it, and think it looks so cute in our nursery. I originally saw this at Land of Nod for $40, but did a little digging and found it at Amazon for about $25. Score!

4. We also used this metal First Aid kit for our field hospital, made by the same company as the Red Cross box – at home, it actually holds all of our medicine, kept pretty safe by the latches (the other box does not securely latch – that’s why we use it for toys!).

5. And the green striped paper straws were a must-have for our camo-faced soldiers to sip their lemonade with – these were nice and sturdy, and didn’t dissolve in liquid like some do.

6. And here’s a link to that pretty awesome medic bag I showed you above (or you can purchase it here at our favorite boy’s adventure store). It’s crazy how thick and sturdy it is, and it only costs about $12:

And here are just a couple of gift ideas…

1. Can you believe that there is a sticker book ALL about World War II? I was shocked. My son LOVED it, but be prepared…it led to a lot of questions. But those led to some pretty great discussions about war and sin and “bad guys”…

2. Gideon received this Ammo box full of army men for his birthday and has played with it nonstop. This is an awesome toy for a little boy!


3. Just stop it with the cuteness already! I can’t handle anymore. Army men bookends. I don’t know what else to say.

If you have any questions about anything else you saw in the pictures, feel free to ask. I don’t get to respond to all my blog comments, but I do try to answer product questions, because I love to help you guys find what you are looking for!


One last thing! I’m still trying to figure out how to share a playlist on here, but until then, here is just a typed-out list of the “vintage” soldier songs we had playing in the Mess Hall. These will also come in handy on the 4th of July and in our future homeschool classes:

  • “Over There” by Arthur Fields
  • “When Johnny Come Marching Home” by The Folksingers
  • “What Can You Do With a General?” by Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin
  • “Marines’ Hymn” by Johnny Desmond
  • “Yankee Doodle Dandy” by Gene Autry
  • “(There’s Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover” by Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra
  • “Keep the Homefires Burning” by Buddy Clark
  • “You’re a Grand Old Flag” by James Cagney, Walter Huston, Rosemary DeCamp and Jeanne Cagney
  • “G.I. Jive” by Johnny Mercer
  • “The Battle Cry of Freedom” by Tom Glazer
  • “The Old Man/Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army” by Bing Crosby, Irving Berlin, and Danny Kaye
  • “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra
  • “Song of Freedom” by Bing Crosby
  • “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by The Andrews Sisters
  • “Comin’ In on a Wing and a Prayer” by The Song Spinners
  • “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” by Johnny Desmond


Phew! I know that was a LOT to share, but I’ll be so happy if it helps any of you along in the planning stages of your future parties. Thanks for sticking with me! Stay tuned for more “war” party pictures!

(See Part Two here).