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.

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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!!!

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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…

still…

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?

 

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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?!)…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Whatevs.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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berry-centric fruit salad…

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

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

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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!

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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).

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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.

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

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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).

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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.

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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:

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!

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

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

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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.

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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).

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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…

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Rebekah blows out her candles…

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Betsie blows out hers…

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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.

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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…”

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

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

I do.

I really, really do.

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

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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?

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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.

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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…

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being with family…

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

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

Oh! And we all lived happily ever after.

The end.

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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”:

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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.

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

So.

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 DON’T KNOW!!!!!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

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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.

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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…

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and…

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!

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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?…

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

A Pinteresty Halloween

In celebration of our upcoming holiday, I’ve been sharing Halloween ideas all day on the Mrs. Gore’s Diary facebook page (where we have LOTS of fun! Join us, why don’t you?), and I thought I’d gather them all up together right here, along with a few more that have yet to be shared…

Last year, just awakening to the glorious world of Pinterest, I threw a Halloween party for all of our friends and family members employing many of the ideas I had come across at that most beloved site, along with a few I had picked up over the years from Country Living and Martha Stewart. We had a ball…but I think I’m still exhausted from our fete, as I have yet to put up a single Halloween decoration this year.

Still, I’ve had great fun looking back at all the fun we had last year, and would love to share with you some Pinterest ideas that worked…and then some that didn’t work…to help you with your Halloween festivities next week.

Really…you  don’t have to thank me.

Let’s hop straight to it!

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Pinterest ideas that worked:

Idea #1: Use a Sharpie to draw jack-o-lantern faces on clementines. On a night that is fueled by candy and sugar, its nice to have at least one healthy treat for your little ones. I’m pretty sure I drew all of these faces on while watching “The X Factor”…

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We also had a bucket of healthy, shiny apples. I am proud to say that, by the end of the night, only 3 of these beauties remained (thanks to our favorite and magical apple peeler/corer/slicer).

~

Idea #2: Glitter Pumpkins! I saw these on the Martha Stewart show in college and had always wanted to give them a try, so one fine Fall day, Gideon and I sat on the front porch and did our first craft together. These were great fun to make (even though we made a HUGE mess on the porch), and seriously? I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. SO much glitter. SOOOO pretty! (and please don’t even think of comparing mine to Martha’s…you should know better).

(source)

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Idea #3: my favorite Halloween decoration everrrrr…and another Martha Stewart stroke of genius! Use her templates to trace and cut out these little mice (I did mine on black cardstock) and attach them to your baseboards or have them crawling onto your windowsills or mantle…I will admit that, after they were stationed all over our living room, they caused me to shiver a few times, but my kids loved them. And I do love Halloween decorations that aren’t gory or scary…just classic, kind-of-spooky, old-fashioned fun.

(source)

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Idea #4: These cake-like cookies (on the bottom tier) were not too difficult to make and…I loved eating them. I don’t remember how well they were received at the party, but I do know this: they were all eaten. Maybe mostly by me.

(source and recipe)

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Idea #5: Amy brought the drinks for our party, and they were a huge hit among the kiddos. Giant pickle jars (with Dollar Store signage) held the drinks, and little jelly jars with spill-proof laminated “lids” served as perfect spooky vessels…topped with a spider ring for each guest. This might have been the kids’ favorite part of the entire party, and was born solely out of Amy’s creativity and resourcefulness. Love her.

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Idea #6: I’ve seen this game several times in magazines and blogs, but I can’t recall from whom or where or whence it came. Its just something we picked up along the way and have used many a time at Halloween or Fall parties. So the source is…whoever gave me the idea. Thanks, you!

Anyhow, as an alternative to dunking for apples, simply tie donuts to long strings and elevate them. The children have to hold their hands behind their back and try to retrieve the yummy donut, resulting in lots of giggles. Our donuts were tied this year to a broomstick that I held in my hands and lowered or raised according to each child’s height.

Yes, I have a picture of me holding the broomstick. Yes, I look about 6 months pregnant in that particular picture. No, I was no pregnant at all. Yes, I was having so much fun I forgot to suck in my gut. No, I will not be sharing that photograph. But YES, I will share this one of sweet Anna trying to get her a donut, as her friends cheer her on…

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Idea #7: You may recall us making these lanterns at my Mom’s Halloween party…well, they looked even more magnificent at night, and helped give our party a festive, family-friendly Halloween vibe. And the kids were so proud to see their own handiwork on display! This idea came straight from Southern Living and was discovered by my Mom, not on Pinterest, but in a real live magazine. Yes, they still make those (and we still love to peruse them!).

(source)

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Pinterest ideas that did NOT work:

So not every endeavor ends in success. You win some…you lose some…even on Pinterest. I definitely lost some in the next two instances.

Failed Idea #1: Would you just look at these adorable cupcakes all tied up with a little bow? Upon seeing them, I directly added them to my list of party treats.

(source)

And then I made them, foolishly using a different recipe that obviously wasn’t destined for such Halloween cuteness. I almost smashed each puny little cupcake as I tried to gingerly tie a pretty bow on them, a sea of powdered sugar covering my kitchen floor. They tasted great, but…I still hate the sight of my version, a blight on my memory and my stupid Halloween party. Gah!

~

Failed Idea # 2: I keep a board on my Pinterest account just for Amy so she doesn’t have to mess with an active account, and there, I share things that I think she might like, or projects I think she would excel in, but more often than not, we bounce around photography ideas. One day, I shared this precious photograph with her, eager to try it out on Betsie. I mean, look at how content that sweet little baby is to sit in a pumpkin! I just knew Betsie, the most content and happy baby I’d ever been around, would do exactly this and more!

(source)

Amy was as gung-ho about it as I was, and we couldn’t wait to set up our little pumpkin photo shoot…

Turns out, Betsie wasn’t keen on the idea of being stuffed inside of a cold pumpkin. Epic fail.

My sincerest apologies to my sweet baby girl who, for some reason, now has a pumpkin phobia. Just kidding. But she might if I showed her this picture…

And just for the record, we got her out of this horrid predicament as soon as possible, whereupon she received lots of cuddling and sympathetic baby-talk.

~

Pinterest failures notwithstanding, it was one of the most festive and enjoyable nights we’ve shared, music playing, Fall breeze gently blowing, trick-or-treaters showing up at the gate and realizing too late that we were having a private, rather than a neighborhood, party (“Oh hi! Um…we only have candy for the kids inside the fence. Sorry…”).

And I was doing one of my favorite things. Sitting around a table with little people, in costume, eating lots and lots of sugar…

Life, in my opinion, doesn’t get much better. Thanks, Pinterest…

Except for where you miserably failed me.

Pin the Tail on the Donkey Goes Patriotic

I told you yesterday I’d share the details on our “Pin the Star on the Flag” game…

First, let me apologize. Our flag was wrinkled from being in storage and I simply did not have time to iron it. Next year I promise I’ll do better.

Which leads me to my next point: this flag has been around for several years now. I had purchased the supplies when Gideon was just a little thing, with plans to make this game for him and his cousins to enjoy. But I’m a procrastinator sometimes, and as that 2008 Independence Day drew near, my flag was still just a bag of felt in a Hobby Lobby bag.

That’s where our amazing friend, Yamei, stepped in.

As we sat around my Mom’s table and chatted and drank coffee, Yamei (a gifted seamstress) transformed my supplies into a giant American flag, one that has lasted for many years and continues to delight the children in my life.

This year was our best yet. Since we didn’t get the chance to actually play this game last year, Gideon had no memory of it, and was so taken by its novelty and fun.

So here’s my wrinkled flag: 

This is completely made of felt fabric, by the way. The stars were traced onto the fabric using a cookie cutter, and once cut, we added a velcro backing to it. Super easy. Super cheap. Super fun.

We’ll let Gideon demonstrate our game, although I’m sure you all know how to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey!

He was WAY off after being spun around and around and around, and eventually tried to pin a star on his Papa – he got so tickled when he realized how far he was from the flag, and his laughter and unbridled joy just made my day…

Perhaps next year you can make your own Pin the Star on the Flag game!

Or just buy the stuff and have Yamei over for coffee…

Miss Sunday’s Third: a Farm Stand Birthday Party (Part 2)

Did I say 3 days ago that I would post Part 2 of Rebekah’s Farm Stand Party “tomorrow”? Silly me. I meant to say “I’ll post the rest of it when I get around to it.” 

Which, lucky for you, is today.

This post will be a tiny bit more random than the last, and there is only one reason…

Amy just took too many good pictures at Rebekah’s 3rd birthday party. And I adore them, every one.

And I’m trying to include them ALL!! 

But we’re almost done, and I think I can wrap all this birthday madness up in a couple more days. Until then, I hope you enjoy joining me for the rest of Miss Sunday’s Farm Stand Birthday, as we blow out candles and open gifts and swing and slide and swim and enjoy the sweetest parts of life to the fullest. Children are such a blessing, and I love nothing more than to make magic for them and then watch them enjoy it.

{Oh, and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should probably take a look at Part One. And if you really don’t know what I’m talking about…as in “Who’s Rebekah?”…well, then, you’ve got a LOT of reading to do, bless your heart. But, welcome! I hope you stick around…}.

Ready or not, here is part TWO!

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I actually took this picture before the party began, but it was important that I added it, because…I couldn’t have pulled off this party – or any party, really – without my Mom’s generosity and help. I told her just today that she has more stamina than any other person I’ve ever seen. She never. stops. working. And her work is most usually for others. She’s unreal. And unbelievably pretty, don’t you think? If I look anything like my Mom when I am 30 years older than I am today, I will be THRILLED…

One of the most random things that happened at the party had to do with this plastic swimming pool we had just brought home from Wal-Mart: we looked over at one point to notice that the kids were intensely playing in it…without any water. It kept them occupied for about 30 minutes. We didn’t realize all these years that we didn’t really need to fiddle with adding water to the pool! I wish we had known sooner…

and it wasn’t just the toddlers, either. The “big kids” played in it, too, including 8-year old Abigail.

Also funny: as the guests began enjoying the food, Amy gestured for me to take a look at Rebekah, who had assumed that the berries on the table were divvied up in individual serving baskets for the taking, and was stealing away with a full pint of her fruit of preference – and she wasn’t about to put down her soda, either. She had to put the berries back, but not until Amy took a picture.

A few more sweet party pictures: Baby Betsie inspects a strawberry with her wonderful Grandpa…

and Kate looks for a place to enjoy her lunch. She had obviously already been enjoying her soda…

and here is beautiful Anna with a cherry red mustache

But let me backtrack for a minute…

Before anyone had started eating lunch, we kicked off the party by singing “Happy Birthday” and blowing out the candles. I picked up this tip from Amy, who started Abigail’s party the same way. In so doing, the birthday girl is free to get dirty and messy while she eats her food and treats, something Rebekah Sunday is particularly gifted at doing.

A little sea of friends and family gathered in front of her to sing and watch her blow out her candles…

it took lots of blowing…

but she did it! I hope all her birthday wishes come true.

Now, I’ve shared this product before in Easier than Apple Pie, but in case you weren’t paying attention, I’ll share it again. This little apple peeler/corer/slicer (yes, it does all 3 at once!) is magical. Click on the picture to find it at Amazon.

Mr. Gore set up station near the food table and ensured that lots of little children got their “apple a day” – because I’ve noticed that even children that “don’t like apples” enjoy eating them this way…

although I’ve never seen one do this Slinky trick before…impressive, Henry…

While beautiful Izzy chose to eat hers like a sandwich!

After lunch, Anna gives Miss Sunday the best gift by taking time to push her on the swing. Her favorite pastime next to snacks.

a happy 3-year old

and a lady, through and through

Rebekah received so many wonderful gifts at her party, but this pink cowgirl hat from Grandpa and Grandma was special for many reasons: 1. keyword: PINK, one of her 3 favorite colors. 2. its from a real Western store and 3. it is just like the hat Rebekah’s character wears in the stories we tell the children at night about Sheriff Gid and his trusty Deputy Sunday. Gideon, of course, has all the things he needs to dress the part of Sheriff, but Rebekah had nuthin’…until today. If only she had some snazzy boots to wear as well…

done.

“Rebekah, tell everyone ‘thank you’ for your gifts!” I prodded. “THANK YOU FOR MY GIFTS!!!” she bellowed across the meadows and o’er the plains. Amy, showing me this picture, said “I don’t know where she gets it…”

And now came the time for our wardrobe change.

And now comes the time when I make some confessions to you…

I’ve been all “bad American Dream” and “no more paper plates” this year, but…I bought this swimsuit from Janie and Jack, full-price, in FEBRUARY for THIS PARTY. It looks like a strawberry, you guys. And it had Rebekah Sunday written all overrrrr it. Worth every penny. Would this be a good time to mention that I also bought her a birthday dress from Janie and Jack on the same day? And that she wore it in the Spring? And so I bought her another birthday dress from Janie and Jack, the blue one she actually wore to the party (that made my stomach hurt it was so precious)?…

Birthdays are so obviously my weakness.

But seriously, look at my birthday girl in her new swimsuit and dare to judge me.

HOW I love this strawberry girl

and her strawberry kisses, even though they are extremely messy and sticky!

After the wardrobe change, we moved the kids to the front yard for some swimming fun – I love the pools at my Mom’s house – they’re cheap (she buys a new one every summer), but the little slide on the side is ridiculously fun (and functional)! And the best part: they’re so shallow, I don’t have to suit up and join them. All the grown-ups can sit and watch from a safe and comfortable distance.

But mostly, I love the joy that is written on my girl’s face in the following pictures, and I can’t thank Amy enough for capturing them for me…

but then, swimming is fun for EVERYONE…

After an hour or more, we all drifted back to the backyard for a few more snacks…

and as the party finally wound down to a close, so did Rebekah Sunday. Crawling into my lap, she snuggled close, and before I knew it, she gave me the best gift of the day by falling asleep in my arms.

I live for these moments – no, really, I LIVE for them – and I must have kissed her forehead a thousand times before she woke up.

And it hit me with startling clarity…

these kid birthday parties are SO for the Mamas.

Miss Sunday’s Third: a Farm Stand Birthday Party (Part 1)

Congratulations!!!

You hung in there through an entire week of posts concerning my middle child, the opinionated and unsinkable Rebekah Sunday. Welcome to the 2nd week. (I can’t stop…I love her!)

To be honest, I was afraid I would lose some of you in this process, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the feedback and the consistency of my site stats…which, 1 1/2 years into the blogging experience, I still check about a hundred times a day. Thank you, for staying with me as I relive this very special week in our lives, and for continuing to encourage me with your kind words and compliments.

I happen to adore both.

Today, I am nigh unto bursting to finally share with you this collection of already treasured photographs from the 3rd birthday party that has been in my heart for well over a year. It was a special day, through and through, and Amy did a fantastic job capturing the spirit and beauty of the event with her photography.

By the party’s end, I was positively ebullient, heart overflowing with joy and contentment…

the day had been perfect.

The weather was more than agreeable. The party was unhurried and comfortable. The food was delicious. The fellowship was heartwarming. The love and goodwill was tangible. And no one had died in transit. Yes, this is something I always worry about. I’d hate for a loved one to die on ANY day. But on a PARTY day?! Say it ain’t so.

And if you enjoy looking at the pictures from this party even a fraction of what I experienced actually being there, well…I’ll be a pretty happy girl.

Without further ado, I humbly and happily present Rebekah’s Farm Stand Birthday Party. Part One.

If you remember, Betsie Fair’s Pat-a-Cake party was soft…pink…lacy…rosy…doilyish…all things that represented (to me) the innocence and babyish beauty of my littlest one. But Miss Sunday is at an entirely different stage of life. If I close my eyes and think of her, I see sights and colors so different than those that come to mind with Betsie: gingham…health and robustness…blues and reds and pin dots …daisies…strawberries…in other words, timeless country simplicity and fun. This party matches her spirit. I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much:

Remember how I did Betsie’s Pat-a-Cake party on the cheap? Rebekah’s not so much…

Fruit is kinda ‘spensive.

but what a beautiful party table it makes! We borrowed Gideon’s Radio Flyer wheelbarrow to give us some layering with old-fashioned country charm.

My Mom is a long-time collector of blue-and-white dishes, colanders, pottery and serving pieces, so I didn’t have to look far to pull off this Farm Stand color scheme. I particularly love this little enamel strainer, holding a couple of handfuls of bright, red (delicious) cherries. On the table is my Mom’s old red ticking sheet, pulled out and ironed at the last minute.

The turquoise berry baskets came from my favorite online party supply store, Shop Sweet Lulu. To see their precious collection of party goods, click here. This store is delightful in every way, all the way down to the way they package your purchases for shipping. I especially enjoyed the complimentary piece of taffy I found in a pretty package at the bottom of my box, along with a sweet little “Thank You” note. You can also follow this shop on Facebook by clicking here.

Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, Red Delicious apples and perfect Porter peaches…

and Miss Sunday was more than happy to share it all with her friends!

including old-fashioned bottles of soda pop for the children…

“What kind of soda,” you ask? NuGrape, purchased at Cracker Barrel, and Stewart’s Black Cherry, found at Petty’s Fine Foods in Tulsa. Both were so tasty, and the children were intrigued by the bottling and delighted by the taste.

 And for Miss Sunday’s grown-up friends there were plenty of mason jars filled with yummy sweet tea.

I happened upon those canning lid covers at Wal-Mart the week before the party, and bought them without even knowing how or where we were going to use them. But 12 covers for $2 was pretty hard to pass up, and they seemed destined to take part in our Farm Stand party…

The fruit, though delicious and healthy, was not enough to sustain all those hungry tummies. Thus, for each child there was a simple sack lunch consisting of peanut-butter-and-strawberry-jam sandwiches and a small bag of potato chips.

I bought these strawberry canning labels the same day I bought the lid covers (also on a whim!), and they were perfect for dressing up our sack lunches a bit. We just folded the bag over, punched 2 holes near the top and tied a strand of heavy twine into a bow to package it up nice and tidy-like.

See? Nice and tidy.

Kate Belle helps herself to some berries…

and our friend, Isaiah, poses for a strikingly handsome picture.

Miss Sunday greets her friend, Henry…

while I bring out the last of the food table goodies (such a cheeseball!)…

Paula Deen’s Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake (for the recipe, click here), turned into cupcakes with a freshly sliced strawberry on top…

and a Martha Stewart gingham cupcake liner on bottom (available at Michael’s).

that just left one thing…close your eyes, Rebekah!

a gorgeous strawberry and cream birthday cake!

We wouldn’t normally indulge in such a cake for a 3-year old girl, but as this was the same cake Mr. Gore and I had at our wedding, and since our anniversary was only 2 days away, we thought it was only fitting. This lovely and delicious cake is always available at my favorite eatery in the state, Queenie’s Cafe and Bakery. I seriously could eat 2 meals a day there and be eternally happy. If you’ve never been…go! Right now!

And if the strawberry cake was not tempting enough, we made a special little treat for the grown-ups: strawberries, piecrust and heavy cream, a favorite recipe of our family’s. I promise to share the details of this slice of heaven in the near future. But for today…

I’ll just let you be curious. And maybe a little jealous?…

Henry enjoys his soda pop in the yard…

while Jackson tries to figure his out on the porch.

And Kate and Rebekah (Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane) guzzle theirs before even making it to their lunch.

As far as birthday parties go, this one is going down in the history of my most beloved and memorable…

and the party is only just beginning!

We still have to blow out candles, open presents, swing and slide, and go swimming!

Part Two…coming up tomorrow!

A Picnicky Celebration of Springdom and Eastertide

I wouldn’t consider myself a super determined or headstrong individual…

I am only very slightly super determined and headstrong, until someone slightly more super determined and headstrong comes along and then I cower in the face of their super determination and headstrongitude.

until it came to this Easter picnic I envisioned one night as I lay in bed. It was going to happen, even if it meant my regular posse (my beautiful nieces) couldn’t be there due to scheduling conflicts and that I had to carry all the supplies out to the shed by myself (remember? Mr. Gore is a recovering back surgery patient…he has been forbidden to lift even a gallon of milk!).

I’m sure the neighbors think I’m an absolute nutcase, dragging rocking chairs and tables and half of my kitchen across our acre-sized lot for a 2-hour picnic, but…I AM a nutcase! I’m glad my neighbors are so astute.

And let’s face it…they’re probably nutcases, too. Who isn’t?

Anyhow, even though the odds were against me and even though I’m a big baby who hates to carry heavy stuff, I’m SO GLAD I plowed forth and picnicked. And I’m extra glad that our friends, Ben and Leslie, could come by at the last minute, all bedecked in their Easter finery. It was a special time to share with them and their handsome baby boy, Grey. Plus, Ben is a big guy who didn’t mind hauling all my junk back to the house when the picnic was over! Thanks, Ben.

And I’d like to thank you, loyal audience, for giving me the motivation to put a little extra something into our festivities ~ for you and you alone, I make sure my shoes match my clothes and that the table linens are ironed. I work a lot harder and a lot better – even at doing the dishes – with you in my life. In my heart, you were an honored guest at our Easter picnic…let’s take a look, shall we?

Lemonade is always refreshing and makes for a pretty treat…

this whole Easter picnic idea originated with the flowers my Mom dropped off after Mr. Gore’s surgery and this dishtowel from Anthropologie, circa 2007ish. (p.s. I DID iron this towel, but the Oklahoma wind knocked it down a couple of times and mussed it).

this carrot cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart is not to be missed! The recipe was perfectly easy to follow and that cream cheese icing with orange zest was tuh-DIE-for!

did you know that when you buy a dishtowel at Anthropologie you are also purchasing wall art or curtains or upholstery fabric? I have several and I use them for near about everything!

for the children, my Mom and I poured little bottles of milk into jars and colored them pink, purple, yellow, blue and green. Each bottle required only one little drop of food coloring (except for purple which required a couple red and a couple blue). Shake it up…Easter milk!

my Mom used to add sugar and vanilla to our “colored milk” but with all the other Easter treats we’ve had this week, we left those ingredients out. You should try it sometime, though – its delicious!

One thing is certain ~ I’ll never forget our Easter picnic by the shed!

(uber-green grass courtesy of iPhoto).

a little pail of carrots provided a healthy snack…

as did this little pitcher of celery. Perfect for my growing bunnies.

Easter picnics do something magical to even the rootingest, tootingest children and hypnotize them into momentary bouts of kindness and goodwill. Feast your eyes upon this rare display of sibling affection!

Ready…set…HUNT!

Gideon found 14 eggs. Rebekah found 3, 2 of which were pointed out to her. She is almost as observant as her Mama.

and as usual, Baby Betsie watched from afar.

the children loved this little watering can filled with Crunch n’ Munch and pastel peanut M&M’s

Isn’t Mr. Gore good to humor me and attend my silly picnics? He even showered and dressed for the occasion, with very little grumbling! He’s a fine chap, he is.

a quick wardrobe change transformed Betsie into a sweet little bunny rabbit…

she has been granted permission to raid all the neighborhood gardens, free of charge.

An easy and no-fuss menu of chips and croissant sandwiches made for simple preparation and clean-up. As always, a special thank you to my beloved Mother for helping me make this happen…without her, I would arrive late to all my parties as a frightening spectacle of dishevelment.

I present to you…the Williams family! So young, so devout, so lovely. We thank God for their friendship!

Now, back to the colored milk…

Next to the egg hunt, I think this was for real the highlight of the picnic for my eldest two – something about those pretty bottles of milk really intrigued them! For more on the bottles we used, see “Miss Sunday’s Two-Two“:

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Mrs. Gore loves to party. 

and so does her little friend, Baby Grey

and so does his adorable Mama, the other Leslie

and so does Miss Sunday, even though she refused to properly pose for this picture with her doting Mother.

Ahhhh…I think even grouchy old Mr. McGregor would have had fun at this picnic.

But then again, I do have a soft spot for grouchy old men.

Happy picnicking, everyone! Happy Spring! And Happy Easter!