Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Minne Mouse Birthday Party

Minnie Mouse Birthday

This past weekend, we celebrated my first daughter Elise's 9th birthday. We haven't celebrated Elise's birthday at home for several years so I wanted to make this birthday special for her, which meant putting on my creative hat and searching through Pinterest. ;)

Elise has been asking for a Minnie Mouse theme birthday for months so choosing the theme and color scheme was the easy part. Since Minnie Mouse is a common theme enjoyed by many children, it was fairly easy locating cute and easy-to-use free printables online.

1. FREE PRINTABLES

I ended up using the following free Minnie Mouse printables found here at Catchmyparty.com.


I also used some printables found on One Charming Day. My graphic design skills are limited so I was glad to find blank printables that require basic photoshop knowledge. The colors worked well together into one cohesive theme. 


2. DIY TABLECLOTH CURTAIN 


*Made with a roll of plastic tablecloth purchased from Party City


I decorated our hallway with cheap plastic tablecloth from Party City. I purchased the roll instead of individual packages for the first time, which turned out to be a good decision. I simply cut the tablecloth to a size I want (No measuring tape needed- I eyeballed it and it turned out fine) and used thumb tacks to secure it on the wall. I then used black tulle to make bow accents.

3. EASY TO MAKE OREO POPS



This was my first time making cake/oreo pops and it turned out to be a fairly easy and fun project.

MATERIALS

1. Lollipop Sticks (longer works better)
2. Plastic wraps
3. Bows/Ribbons for decoration
4. Styrofoam

For Oreo Pops

1. A bag of Oreos
2. A bag of marshmallows
3. Philadelphia Cream Cheese (8oz)
3. 2 bags of candy melts (I used black and pink)
4. Sprinkles
5. Lots of paper plates and napkins (for easy clean up)

HOW TO MAKE MINNIE MOUSE OREO POPS

1. Let the cream cheese soften.
2. Crush oreos in a food processor or put them in a ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin.
3. Mix cream cheese with crushed oreos.
4. Make them into round balls (about 1 inch). I used a cake pops shaper.
5. Put them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.
6. Put them in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes.
7. Fix the shape. (You can make them more round and firm at this stage).
8. Insert pop sticks.
9. Put them back in the freezer for about 5 minutes.
10. Melt Candy melts in a microwavable bowl. (Try 10-15 seconds at a time.)
11. Use candy melt as "glue" to glue on the marshmallow ears.
12. Put back in the freezer for a few minutes to harden.
13. Dip the oreo and marshmallow in the chocolate melt. Use a spoon or stick (I used chopsticks) as needed to make the surface as smooth as possible.
14. Use sprinkles to decorate.
15. Let it dry.
16. Wrap them in the squared bag and tie it with a cute ribbon!

Here are a few tips.

Be prepared to make some mistakes-- you will get better as you go.

And USE COMMON SENSE! I tried following a recipe but you can't follow it to a tee- you have to keep checking the texture of the oreo ball to see if its ready for the next step and melt the chocolate as long or short as needed. Everyone's equipment work differently (i.e. refrigerator, microwave) and it's hard to follow someone else's recipe exactly.

BE CREATIVE AND THERE IS NO NEED TO BE PERFECT!

I had fun decorating these and tried different techniques. Even if they are not perfectly shaped or coated, they will look cute and taste delicious to your little guests. Have fun with them. Once they are wrapped with cute bows, they look so adorable and the kids love them!

4. BANNERS & PRINTABLES

MATERIALS: 

  • Color printer
  • Cardstock paper (80-110lb)
  • A hole puncher
  • Scissors or paper cutter
  • Tulle or ribbons in the color of your choice
  • Little bit of creativity!






 4. Paper Lantern Hanging Mickey Mouse Decorations


MATERIALS: Made with two packs of paper lanterns purchased from Party City. 


I got this idea from Pinterest as well and it was so easy to follow. Simply purchase paper lanterns at your local party store (one big, one small) and use the smaller pieces as ears!

5. Disney Inspired Menu


MATERIALS: Made with Photoshop, printed on cardstock paper and framed in existing frame. 


I also had cute place cards made but I didn't get a chance to photograph them. Actually I didn't have the time to photograph a lot of the little accents and decorations strewn all around the house because I was busy hosting, setting up tables and talking to guests.

But that's okay--- all that matters at the end is that everyone had a wonderful time, especially the birthday girl. We hosted two parties, one with school friends earlier in the day and one with family and close friends for dinner so it was so hectic. It was a lot of work but in the end, worth every effort.

I really enjoy making DIY party decorations as it serves as a creative outlet for me. Overall, the birthday party was a success and the birthday girl enjoyed her special day. We are so blessed to have such wonderful family and friends in our lives and Elise is lucky to have so many people who love her.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Rare Religious Post: God Missed Me.



So about a month ago this is I wrote in a blog post
But it's the beginning of another day and there is so much room and time for another serendipitous encounter, another revelation, another epiphany. It's not here yet, but it will be here. Soon.
Well, I was right. That revelation, the epiphany that I was seeking came to me in the form of an invitation to lead a women's retreat coming up in August.

To tell this story, I must rewind and explain a bit about my religious background.

I was born and raised as Christian, Catholic to be exact. I don't like to make the distinction between Christianity and Catholicism because Catholics are the first Christians and Christians are further divided into protestants, baptists, methodists etc. but I won't get that technical or historical here. Well, I was raised as a Catholic-Christian.

My parents were devout Catholics and religious education was very important in my family. We never missed Sunday mass or a church camp, retreat, and other events held at the church. I was baptized, confirmed and married in the church. (Well to be exact, I had to have two weddings, one with a Protestant pastor and one with a Catholic priest. More on that later).

It was an unquestionable part of my existence. Naturally my parents assumed that I would marry a nice Catholic guy and continue to live out their unchallenged faith.

In a strange twist of fate, I married a PK- A Pastor's Kid- who also shared the same strict and conservative religious background. His father served as a pastor for over twenty years and the same religious ideals were upheld in their home. When it was time to be married I was told by my Mother-In-Law that I must convert into their protestant faith because I was the wife.

It took me less than a second to say I won't do anything like that against my will- and of course, trouble ensued. What seemed like a silent religious battle broke out between the two families and both my husband and I only knew what we were told at the time- we must choose one religion and give up the other.

Well years passed, children were born, and we were still unable to figure out a good solution. We still couldn't find a home church and we began our lonely journeys as Catholic-Protestants who travel here to fro like floaters. We attended his dad's church at times, attended mass at times and skipped church altogether most of the time.

In my marriage, the word "religion" was an oppressive force and I couldn't understand why God placed such confusion in my life. I was accused of negative traits that came along with being classified as a "Catholic" and I eventually stopped calling myself Catholic altogether.

If religion was becoming a source of confusion and disruption in my life, there was a reason. God was asking me to seek him deeper. I went from being a Christian, to Catholic to SPIRITUAL.

Thus my lonely spiritual journey began. I began to delve into other religions like taoism, hinduism and buddhism. I picked up whatever books I can find and began to read. I would go from Hindu literature to the bible to a book written by a priest who turned taoist.  I researched words like "New Age" and "Transcendental movement." I learned about Mormonism, Judaism and atheism. I talked to priests, buddhist teachers and psychics.

Being from the Asian culture naturally made me gravitate towards Eastern spirituality like buddhism and taoism, yet I still loved the rich traditions of Catholicism. There was something missing from every religion- or so I felt- and nothing seemed to completely fill the void I felt in my heart.

I never doubted the existence of God, I just needed to find my own way of serving and connecting with Him.

Sometime in 2007- during my lowest point of motherhood and the 20's- I found out about a women's retreat called the Cursillo that coincidentally began on my 27th Birthday. I was desperately seeking for answers to my spiritual agony, and therefore attended the weekend asking God for answers, clarity and strength.

I also needed to work out some emotional and psychological issues, as I was diagnosed earlier that year as clinically depressed.  I was told by a psychiatrist that I would need medication for at least a year, yet I hated the way anti-depressants made me feel. I said screw the medication- and vowed that I would find a better, more holistic way to heal myself.

I went into the weekend desperate and desolate and came out, three days later, feeling like I saw and felt a glimpse of heaven on earth.

I was a new woman and the next chapter of my spiritual journey began. I still couldn't figure out how to resolve the religious conflict between me and my husband's family but learned that it didn't matter anymore.

God didn't care what religion we belonged in. He just loved and missed us, and wanted us to stay close to him. He wanted us to pray with a humble heart, communicate with him daily, include him in our daily lives and every decision that we make. He wanted us to love ourselves and each other. He wanted us to serve others selflessly while not forgetting how much He loves and appreciates us.

That was all-- that was it. I truly believe that there are no religions in heaven. God does not categorize us into different parts- this is a very 'human' thing to do.

God does not categorize, condemn nor stereotype.  God loves and accepts us all. 

My spiritual journey is still ongoing. I feel this is a journey I will be taking until the day I die. But God planted a small seed in my heart that weekend and many miracles, both big and small, took place in my life since then.

Two weeks ago, I received a random phone call from my previous leader asking me to take over her place. Of course, this position is entirely voluntary and non-paid, much like the work I do around the home (Which goes entirely against my adolescent dreams- hah!). I will be serving as the spiritual leader of the upcoming women's Cursillo weekend. It's a position of honor that I know I'm unworthy to be given.

Even at this moment I don't know how I can fulfill this cause, and fill the role given to me. I don't follow all the rules of the institution or serve actively in a religious community. I'm far from dogmatic. Yet God is calling me because He needs me for a reason I do not yet understand.

I accepted this calling simply to serve. God calls, I will obey and follow. It's the least I can do for all that He has done for me. My human head doubts my worthiness as a leader- even now I don't know if I like the term leader.

I'm not a leader, but a follower of Christ.  Perhaps this is why He chose me.

I'm now embarking on another spiritual journey.  I don't know how it will play out; all I know is that God missed me.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hello Spring: Simple Lessons From a 7-Year Old



My 7-year old daughter has a habit of marking off her calendar every morning. Her calendar is one of her most prized possessions in her room, and this year's calendar contains pictures of dogs & puppies in various shapes and sizes.

As I lazily drag my weak and tired body out of my bed into her room, this simple morning routine of my young daughter teaches me one of life's greatest lessons- that EVERYDAY IS A BLESSING and I should begin every morning with such zeal.

Today as always, she grabs a pen by her desk, runs to her calendar and marks off her day with a big X. Then she shrieks, "MOM, GUESS WHAT??? Today is the first day of SPRING!!!"

Nowadays my daughter is the one who reminds me when St. Patrick's Day is and when Spring begins.
She is the one to remind me what leprechauns are; that they are tiny, mischievous little beings who leave behind gold chocolate coins.

She believes in unicorns, magic and pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

She reminds me what jinx is and that I need someone to say my name not one but three times to speak again. When I tell her "Adults don't play jinx," she looks at me with confused puppy eyes and genuinely asks why. Her curiosity and wonder makes me ashamed of my loss of innocence.

She reminds me daily that perhaps God's greatest gifts to mankind is children's innocence and the joy it brings to their parents.

She makes me rollerblade at a park, fall on my ass, and laugh out loud at myself. While watching TV she tells me there is this great product for my pimples at only $19.99. She tells me she wishes she never gets spots on her face when she grows up.

I love the simplicity of her thought process, her unfiltered honesty and how she still believes in promises, even the false claims made by advertisements.

TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING.

Today will never come back. Today will one day be a distant memory. Today is the youngest I will ever be. The clock is ticking and I will one day be an old lady.

Today I realize why we have children. We all age, lose volume and gain wrinkles. And during this natural course of life called aging, our children are here to teach and re-teach us lessons in life that we must encounter to fully grow as adults.

A real woman must continue to grow until her death, and without children, that learning process can come to a halt like a broken machine.

Thank God for children and their fervor for life. Thank God for their innocence and honesty. Thank God for their beauty both inside and out. Thank God for their sweet smiles and belly laughters.

If I had a chance to go back in time and do it all over again- the weight gain, postpartum depression, crazy woman hormones and all----- I would. And coming from me who never regarded herself as a natural born mother, that means a lot.



Fishing at Big Bear Lake, Last weekend of Winter