3rd Birthday Party

We recently celebrated our sweet son’s 3rd birthday, and what fun we had! I still can’t believe he’s 3 years old – time is going by so very fast! While I’ve always tried to cherish every minute of our boy’s childhoods, I’m finding myself holding on tighter than ever. These years are so precious and I am savoring every minute and every stage of life with them.

Back to the party! Since C is a summer birthday, we decided a pool party would be the perfect way to celebrate. What toddler doesn’t love to splash and swim on a hot summer day? C chose a construction theme, which is only fitting since he adores all things trucks, cranes and excavators. Once he had his heart set on the theme, it was off to the races with planning, and I found these darling invitations by our favorite stationery designer (we love Lucy!), which inspired the entire look of the party. Lucy designed adorable invites that combined C’s construction passion – cue the dump trucks! – with the charm of a third birthday.

We opted for simple and sweet party decor, featuring a bright and cheerful color scheme of yellow, red, blue and green. These Meri Meri plates and napkins stole my heart, and paired with the royal blue table clothes made for a swoon worthy toddler table setting. Multicolored confetti, party blowers, and shiny yellow construction party hats added festive bursts of color to the table, and a construction themed coloring activity and crayons kept the little ones busy post-swim. The kids nibbled on chicken fingers, waffle cut fries and fruit for lunch, as well as blue confetti birthday cake, and took home blue and green bubble wands  as party favors. As you can imagine, C enjoyed his party beyond words!

So what have I learned now that I’ve planned three birthday parties for our son? My biggest pieces of advice are to plan ahead and be organized, choose a theme that’s special to your child, offer an activity for the children, and of course delicious food and cake. At the end of the day, your child will love whatever party you host, be it a small family gathering or get together with their friends. Also, be sure to snap a handful of pictures to remember the day. And as always, have fun!

Next up is baby brother’s first birthday, and we’ll be celebrating with a “Our Little Pumpkin is Turing 1” theme. Stay tuned for all the details!

Healthy Bolognase

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! We had a busy one, filled with a beautiful birthday party on Saturday morning at a nearby park (C was in heaven with his slice of birthday cake, hamburger, ice cream cone, and splash – soak! – in a nearby fountain), and then Saturday afternoon the hubby and I packed our bags and headed out for a little staycation. As our first night away from our darling boys, we missed them dearly however it was such a treat to have some time just the two of us, feel pampered and stay in one of our favorite hotels. And to sleep in past 7am – oh my goodness, we forgot what that felt like! Did I also mention the incredible meals? Dinner included maple and black peppercorn crusted buffalo tenderloin with creamy jalapeño cheddar grits, wilted greens and a butternut squash tamale – yum, yum, yum!

Back to the boys – I knew C especially would be missing us around dinnertime, and so we thought making his favorite dish would help. We surprised him with spaghetti Bolognese, and the child couldn’t have been happier. I consumed copious amounts of this comforting and classic Italian dish during my two pregnancies, and so perhaps that’s why the boys adore it so. They both had seconds on Saturday night, and C even ate the remainder for lunch on Sunday.

I’m planning on making it again this week for dinner, however I’m going to tweak the sauce slightly. While the traditional version calls for milk or cream to be added to the sauce, this recipe that I’m sharing today replaces the dairy with pine nuts making it a bit healthier. Plus, it’s filled with carrots and celery, so its perfect for those kiddos who shy away from veggies. Given that I try to steer clear of dairy, this recipe is a great alternative and one that I can eat, guilt-free. Paired with a crisp green salad and crusty baguette, it’s the perfect meal, and I hope you will give it a try too!

 


Healthy Bolognese Sauce 

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

4 carrots, chopped

1 can of crushed  tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 tablespoon oregano

1 pound cooked ground beef 

 

Pour the oil into a dutch oven over medium heat, and add the onions, celery and carrots. Sauté the vegetables until they are soft, and the onion is translucent. Add the apple cider vinegar and tomatoes. Cook the sauce for 10-15 minutes (stir constantly). Next, add the salt and fennel seeds, and stir the sauce until well combined. Transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor, add the pine nuts, and blend until smooth. Transfer the sauce back to the dutch oven, and add the oregano and cooked ground beef. Warm the sauce over low heat, and serve with your favorite pasta. 

 

Foolproof Summer Dinner Party Menu

We hosted friends a few weeks ago for dinner, and had such a wonderful time. The littles ones splashed in the pool, the husbands made crisp greyhound cocktails, and we all enjoyed a fabulous dinner, including a special kid-friendly dessert: make-your-own ice cream sundae bar (keep an eye out for a future post on this beloved dessert). Confession #1: the adults might have loved the sundaes just as much as the toddlers! Confession #2: We might have made French fries for the kids and ended up loving those too!  It truly was a great night with great friends.

So what is the recipe for such a successful evening? Of course you want to put on your hostessing hat (find my dinner party checklist here!) and have your house at its best, a beautifully set table, fresh flowers, candles lit and music playing etc., however I think the two most important factors are excellent food and a relaxed host. Sometimes the latter can be the hardest part, especially when entertaining with spirited children!  Yet at the end of it all, your guests likely won’t recall if you had hydrangeas or peonies, or the color of the linens, but they will remember the outstanding meal you served, and how much fun they had.

As for the relaxed host, try to be as organized as your can and plan ahead, as this will alleviate last-minute stress. Map out your menu, florals, table setting, etc. a couple of weeks ahead. If you prefer to outsource, be sure to line up your caterer and floral arrangements well in advance of your party. Also, make a day-of to-do list so you be sure to remember all of the final details!

Now for the food! When entertaining, I gravitate towards simple yet delicious food that is in season, relatively easy to prepare and has fantastic presentation – think an array of vibrant colors, flavors and textures. In the summer, our go to is the grill and typically a yummy fruit dessert. This menu that I have prepared for you is tried and true (and what we served our friends a few weeks ago!), and one I think you will love. I’ve also listed few tips to keep in mind when you prepare this menu for your family or friends. Enjoy!

 

Menu

Guacamole & corn chips 

Grilled hamburgers 

Confetti corn

Green salad 

Strawberry & Rhubarb Crisp

 

Menu Tips:

  • Greet guests with guacamole and cocktails to set the tone for the night. If you don’t have time to make the guacamole, Whole Foods and other speciality markets often make their own guacamole and it’s a great option.
  • Consider serving your hamburgers on brioche buns (so indulgent!), and have a platter filled with colorful fixings such as green leaf lettuce or arugula, sliced red and yellow tomatoes, purple onions, etc. Be sure to also offer cheese (cheddar or Gruyère) on the hamburgers.
  • If you or your guests don’t eat red meat, you could easily make turkey burgers or even veggie burgers.
  • Dress your salad with a simple balsamic or lemon vinaigrette.
  • Serve the crisp warm with ice cream.