Monday, February 4, 2013


I've always had a slight obsession with surprise parties. I think it started with my favorite children's book--Panda Bear's Secret--where Panda plans a surprise party for his Grandma. (I also credit that book for my love of Panda bears, so I guess be careful what books your kids read; apparently they'll be influenced for life.) 

So when Kate's bf told me he wanted to do a surprise party for Kate's birthday, I kind of freaked out. I'm sure my ideas and orders suggestions got to be a bit much at times, but he was a trooper. He suggested a Mexican theme, because Kate likes Mexican food. I came up with so many ideas--too many really--from a few quick online searches. I really loved this collection of ideas from Martha Stewart. I even had alcoholic drinks planned! But Oliver vetoed me on most things, apparently wanting to keep it simple. 

He did, however, let me get streamers featuring sombreros, chilis, and maracas.

He also let me do a very basic version of this paper tissue wall hang found on Hostess with the Mostess.

I couldn't find a tutorial, so I made it up as I went. It took some time, but it was relatively easy. I mean, I did it. And I'm the least crafty person on  the planet :) In case you're interested, I took pictures to walk you through the process.

What you'll need:

Tissue paper (I used 10 sheets of each color)
String of some sort (Curling ribbon worked fine for me)
Stapler and staples
Tape (Sticky enough to hang on the wall, not so sticky it will damage the wall)

1. Take the tissue paper out of its package and fold in half. It's probably already done for you, just crease the fold.

2. Cut the paper into a fringe, leaving a two inch margin at the top, by the fold.

3. Repeat with all colors, obviously

 4. Separate the sheets of paper, laying one on top of another.

5. Measure a length of string the width of the area of wall you'll be using. Decide how many rows of paper you'll be using, and cut that many lengths of string.

6. Loop the string through the fold. Leave enough string at the left end to attach to the wall.

 7. I used a stapler to make sure the paper stayed spaced correctly on the string. I'm still not sure if this was necessary, but better safe than sorry.

8. When I placed the second sheet of paper, I originally lined it up right next to the first. This caused a weird gap, so I fixed it with a staple and some tape. But for the rest, I overlapped sheets of paper by about one inch.

9. When you get to the end of your string, hang it up, starting with the bottom row.

10. Repeat!

And voila! The finished project: 

The other must-have decoration for me was the "Sleeping Mexican," as spotted on Top Party Ideas.

Oliver took the lead on this one, stuffing his clothes with newspaper. 

We didn't want to spend the money to buy a poncho, so we took an old sheet, measured to Oliver, and cut.

 We named our friend Miguel.

The day of the party led to an always-scary experience: cooking.

 My family makes very Americanized chicken enchiladas, which I've made in the past and feel comfortable with:

But I also found a recipe for stuffed jalapenos that looked good and easy enough for me to make. 

More decorations the day of the party: 

Waiting for Kate to arrive...


The surprise was a success!

Happy Birthday, Kate!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Into the Land of Black and Gold

This weekend I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Iowa City, Iowa. I don't mean to indicate that simply being in Iowa City was incredible, because that would be very far from the truth. This does a fantastic job at illustrating my time there: 

The city and its people were cold, bitter, and inhospitable. 

A slight caveat: I know that good things come from Iowa. I just didn't encounter any of those things this weekend. 

Anyway. On Thursday I drove to Des Moines, where I picked my mom up from the airport. Together we drove to Iowa City.

Here's the hotel restaurant where we ate our first night when we finally found it. (Wouldn't you think an in-house restaurant would be easy to find? Yeah. You would think...)

The next day, my mom and I spent some time shopping downtown before visiting with Matt.

Mom and I got to Carver Hawkeye Arena a little before 6pm. Eventually we found the entrance for people getting tickets from wrestlers and made our way inside. 

The arena was very impressive.

As was the sight of more than 15,000 wrestling fans filling it.

I've never really been a fan of cheerleaders at wrestling meets (although I loved cheering at them), but these squads provided some entertainment during the frequent commercial breaks taken for the Big Ten Network broadcast.

Penn State lost the meet, which was sad, but I was so happy to be there to experience the weekend with my mom and to see Matt wrestle in person, something that doesn't happen nearly often enough.