Stella & Dot Trunk Show and Romantic Afternoon Tea

I had so much fun last weekend hosting a Stella and Dot Trunk Show with afternoon tea for my girlfriends!

I’m especially proud that our stylist Stacey and I are each donating 10%, so 20% of the total sales, to the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. If you feel so inclined, you can check out their beautiful jewelry, bags and accessories and participate in the fundraiser through May 25, 2013.

Here’s a glimpse at our fun girls’ afternoon, which I hope to turn into an annual event!

Ideas for a charming vintage tea party.  {Jewels at Home}


  • I was excited to use my eclectic mix of vintage tea cups, plates, and serving dishes that I collected for a baby shower last year.

Vintage afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

Vintage afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

Vintage afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

  • Fresh flowers are a beautiful touch. I clipped some Cala lilies from our garden, and on of my friends brought a colorful bouquet that looks beautiful on the coffee table. I’m brainstorming about something similar I can put there long-term.

Vintage afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

  • Paper lanterns are so popular right now, and I’ve been looking for a way to use them. I love the garden feel these lanterns created for our tea party. I hung them using fishing line and clear Command Mini Hooks.

A collection of colorful paper lanterns brings the garden party inside.  {Jewels at Home}

A collection of colorful paper lanterns brings the garden party inside.  {Jewels at Home}

  • Tea cup garland – this was a fun and easy project. I was cutting out paper tea cup silhouettes to make signs for the food, and I was inspired to string some together with lace to make this little garland that I hung over the buffet. I love the romantic feel of the colors and patterns.

Cute paper tea cup garland for a vintage afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

Cute paper tea cup garland for a vintage afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

  • New table runner and trivets – I’ve been meaning to make these for a while out of the same fabric I used for cushions on our hallway bench. They worked perfectly for our party and will get lots more use in days to come.

Table runner and fabric trivets for a romantic afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

Fabric trivet for a romantic afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

  • Luggage tag party favors were a last-minute project using some of the same prints as the tea cup garland. I printed the names on cardstock backed with decorative paper and slipped the paper into these clear vertical badge holders and added luggage tag loops.
DIY luggage tags with beautiful paper backs.  Party favors for a charming afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

DIY luggage tags with beautiful paper backs. Party favors for a charming afternoon tea party. {Jewels at Home}


  • Cheese plate for a savory snack
  • Fruit salad in a watermelon basket – everyone said, “My mom used to do that!” My mom did, too!
  • Coffee cake – a great sour cream cake that my mom also made.
  • Cookies – classic Walker’s shortbread and some cute flower-shaped sugar cookies
  • baklava – hubby made this. SO good.

Vintage afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

Vintage afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

Vintage afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

Drink list

  • Mimosas
  • Tea – LOVE this vintage candy tin I found in an antiques shop on my birthday.  It fits a collection of tea bags perfectly.

A vintage candy tin makes a perfect place to store and display tea bags.  Part of a vintage tea party from Jewels at Home.

  • Citrus water

Are you feeling inspired by our charming afternoon tea party? Here are a few of my favorite pieces from the Stella and Dot collection, if you’d like to participate in our fundraiser:

Red Ikat Bag, Julep Bangle, and Dot Bloom Necklace from Stella and Dot.  Shop with 20% going to the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer through May 25, 2013.

Red Ikat Bag, Julep Bangle, and Dot Bloom Necklace from Stella and Dot. Shop with 20% going to the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer through May 25, 2013.

Thank you so much to all my friends who came out to socialize and shop for a cause. I’m looking forward to seeing you next year!


Vintage afternoon tea party.  {Jewels at Home}

Ninjago Birthday Party – Part 1

Pulling off a birthday party is like an athletic event (or at least I imagine it to be, not actually being athletic) – I work like crazy and then crash afterward. It’s always worth it to give our boys a day to remember. Here’s the first post on our seven year old’s Ninjago birthday party. I put details on the party activities in a separate post.

A complete guide to a Ninjago birthday party, with ideas for decorations, activities, food, and party favors.  {Jewels at Home}

Ninjago birthday decorations

I still like the feel of a paper invitation, like the ones I made for our firefighter birthday party, but sometimes the convenience of an online invitation is hard to resist.  Luckily, evite has this Lego-themed invitation, and I added a Ninjago drawing by our birthday boy, to complete the look.

Ninjago birthday party blog post with decorations, food, and activities, from Jewels at Home.

Customize an online invitation for your Ninjago birthday party.

For decorating the house, I hung our reusable birthday banners, customized with pictures of green Ninjago Lloyd ZX.  I had in mind to do balloons with stuck-on Ninjago eyes, but I ran out of time!

Ninjago birthday party blog post with customized decorations and tons of ideas.  {Jewels at Home}

Customized Ninjago birthday banner.

I printed signs for the activities using Bonsai font and mounted them on green scrapbook paper.  Each child got a Ninjago eyes T-shirt to wear when he arrived.  This was their main party favor, and the shirts were a hit!  It was really fun to see all the little Ninjagos running around the house together!

DIY Ninjago T-shirt party favors and many other ideas for a Ninjago birthday from Jewels at Home.

Celebrate your Ninjago fan's birthday with the DIY Ninjago eyes shirts!  Tutorial and more ideas from Jewels at Home.

I failed to capture the partying kids in any decent poses – they were moving too fast! but here’s the birthday boy’s little brother sporting his custom shirt. You don’t need to make your own shirts to have great Ninjago accessories.  I have definitely picked up a lot of Ninjago and other Lego shirts and toys at great prices on!

DIY Ninjago eyes T-shirts and many other ideas for your Ninjago birthday party.  {Jewels at Home}

Ninjago birthday food ideas

As you can see from the sign in this picture, I had wanted to arrange fruit into a Serpentine, one of the Ninjago enemies, but due to limitations of daylight savings time, I just piled the fruit on a plate, and it was all gone in an instant anyway – I told you those Ninjago are fast!

For lunch, we had a variety of Japanese and Japanese-inspired fare, including California rolls and avocado rolls from the local supermarket, homemade Spam musubi by Steve, and plenty of gyoza dumplings, which were the kids’ favorite.

Ninjago birthday party ideas, including decorations, food, and activities.  {Jewels at Home}

Ninjago birthdy party food: gyoza, musubi, and rolls.

Ninjago birthday party ideas, including decorations, food, and activities.  {Jewels at Home}

Instead of a cake, I made sushi using Rice Krispies.  These Rice Krispy treat sushi are decorated with fruit roll-up for the “nori” and Swedish fish and fruit gummies for garnish.  They were a lot of fun to make, though time-consuming.  If you do it, I definitely recommend making a half batch at a time, as the Rice Krispy treats kept hardening before I could shape them all, and I ended up with several leftover globs.

Rice Krispy Treat sushi made from Rice Krispies cereal and candy.  More ideas for a Ninjago birthday party at Jewels at Home.

Rice Krispy Treat sushi made from Rice Krispies cereal, fruit roll-up, Swedish fish, and other treats. So cute!

Tons of ideas for a Ninjago birthday party, complete with decorations, activities and food, from Jewels at Home.

Happy birthday boy at his Ninjago-themed party!

Ninjago Birthday Activities

These were a blast, and you can read all the details in this post!

Happy birthday to our dear son!  I am glad it was such a fun day.


Firefighter Birthday Party

“Baby” J is hardly a baby anymore. He’s 2! Yes, I am sad. But,whenever I think this idea through, whether it be about my kids progressing too fast through childhood or myself approaching middle age, the conclusion always seems to be that I am grateful that we have the chance to grow up or grow old. And of course, we are all only growing older, so I try not to let the sadness about the passing of each stage overshadow my enjoyment of it.

Now, enough philosophizing and onto the fun! J is in that stage of a young boy’s development that centers around all things with wheels, engines, and in the best cases, both. When I told Steve I wanted to throw J a firefighter birthday, in honor of his favorite vehicle, a firetruck, he commented that it was certainly a better idea than celebrating J’s second favorite, which is a garbage truck. True.


I found these cute “Red Fire Truck” invitations on Shutterfly, which worked our perfectly for our party.

Red Firetruck birthday invitation from Shutterfly.  Perfect for a little boy's party!

Red Firetruck birthday invitation from Shutterfly. Perfect for a little boy’s party!

I also printed up this little note. As I mentioned, I like to try alternatives to birthday gifts to teach the children about giving and reduce clutter at home.  At J’s party we raised $80 for the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation. My colleagues and I have seen several firefighters at the Cancer Center where we work. These women and men are exposed to many dangerous substances in their work protecting others, and they often do not get all the financial support and services they need to address the risk of cancer, so this organization is a good way to fill that gap.

Instead of birthday gifts, collect donations for a meaningful charity.  From Jewels at Home.

Instead of birthday gifts, collect donations for a meaningful charity.


We dressed up the house with red and white balloons and these birthday banners I customized.

Customized firefighter birthday banner.  Jewels at Home.

Customized firefighter birthday banner.

Customized firefighter birthday banner.  Jewels at Home.

Another customized firefighter birthday banner.

For the children to play, we had the play firehouse I made, as well as a pop-up firetruck made by Playhut. I found the best price on eBay.

Firefighter birthday with DIY playhouse and pop up firetruck.  Jewels at Home.

Firefighter birthday with DIY playhouse and pop up firetruck.

Sticking with my pledge to reduce plastic trinkets from birthday parties, I chose to buy real cotton baseball caps and add these firefighter badge stickers, rather than buy plastic hats that will break in a few days. The cotton hats were reasonably priced when bought in bulk, are very good quality, and blank, so they can be reused for any occasion. I wrote each child’s name inside with white puffy paint.

Firefighter birthday.  Buy cotton caps in bulk and add a sticker for a reusable and durable party favor.  Jewels at Home.

Buy cotton caps in bulk and add a sticker for a reusable and durable party favor.


In case you are looking for game ideas for a firefighter birthday, I’ll include mine below, but I’ll also disclose that we didn’t end up playing most of them.  The kids were all so absorbed with each other and our toys that I didn’t manage to rally everyone in one place at one time for games…

These were inspired by some fire safety stickers I found. I wanted each child to get a sticker for completing an activity. I tried to make them things that kids from two to nine could all enjoy.

Dial 9-1-1

  • Lesson: Ask kids if they know the number to dial if there they need the police, ambulance or firefighters. Remind them that they should not call 9-1-1 for fun. It is only for a serious emergency.
  • Activity: Kids hop on a hopscotch pattern with the numbers 9, 1, and 1

Bee smart. Don’t let fires start & Fire safety starts with me

  • Lesson: Be aware of items that could be a dangerous and start a fire. Remind kids to stay away from these items.
  • Activity: Ask each child to name two things in a house that could start a fire. For the younger kids, name a few items and ask them to say if they could start a fire, eg. stove (yes), candles (yes), shoe (no!)

When fire strikes, Get out and stay out & Crawl low in smoke

  • Lesson: If there is a fire, get out of the building as quickly as possible. Do not hide inside. If there is a lot of smoke, crawl on the ground, where there it’s less smoky.
  • Activity: Make an obstacle course (ours started in a playhouse) that includes a crawling segment. To make it fun for the older kids, you can time them.

Happy Birthday, dear JJ!

I can’t take credit for the cake – we bought it – but I will take credit for eating several slices.

Firetruck birthday cake.

Firetruck birthday cake.

Birthday boy and his brother enjoying cake and their new firefighter caps.

Birthday boy and his brother enjoying cake and their new firefighter caps.

In the end, I think it was a fun birthday for baby J and his friends.  The occasion was made extra special, because Nicola came with her new baby (remember the bib and onesie bouquet I made?).  We are looking forward to many more family celebrations with them.




Charming Eclectic Tea Party

Well, this past Sunday was pretty wonderful, not least because my primary source of sustenance was scones and cupcakes. I’ve spent much of the past few weeks preparing for my friend Nicola’s baby shower, and it finally came together! There will be more baby shower details in upcoming posts, but let’s start with the tea party.

I was completely in love after attending a baby shower at DarTealing Lounge last year. Afternoon tea is such a luxurious event, and DarTealing offered top-notch teas and treats in an absolutely charming setting. One of the things I loved was the mix of patterns and styles in the teacups, plates, and silverware. This approach took all the pressure off of using china – break one, and you can replace it with something completely different! Lovejoy’s Tea Room over in Noe Valley has a similar atmosphere and is also a popular place for showers.

Until recently, I didn’t own much in the way of accessories for tea myself, but I did have two sets of little plates that have great sentimental value. Here’s how I came to own them… Even after many years, old losses and grief will sometimes surface. Seven years after my mom died, I was pregnant with our second baby, and I was overcome with sadness at my mom’s absence. With her incredible insight, my manager at work – and dear friend – suggested that I reach out to some of my mom’s friends over my Christmas vacation. I didn’t mention the sense of loss that drove me to contact her friend Mrs. McCulloch, but when I arrived at her house – for tea – it was clear that our meeting was special for both of us. She told me stories about my mom, some that predated me, and one story was about a time they had been browsing antique stores together, and Mrs. McCulloch had fallen in love with some vintage plates. My mom went back later to buy the plates and gave them to her friend. That snowy day when we met, her friend gave them to me.

Eclectic tea party - mix and match vintage china for an easy and beautiful table setting.  Jewels at Home.

In the foreground are the two sets of plates that were passed on to me by my mother’s good friend.

When my dear friend Nicola heard this story, she determined that she and I should have our own afternoon tea party, and it took us a while to get around to it, but after Thanksgiving last year, we enjoyed an afternoon of sandwiches, tea, and board games. As an early Christmas gift, she brought me two beautiful teacups that day, and so the collection was born.

Beautiful vintage tea cups.

Beautiful vintage tea cups given to me by my wonderful friend, Nicola.

When it came time for me to plan Nicola’s shower, it seemed only natural that a tea party should be part of the theme. It was the perfect excuse to use my treasured plates and cups and to build on my collection. This was treasure hunting at its best! I browsed local thrift and antique stores as well as eBay to discover a colorful array of teacups and plates. The beauty of this approach is that you’re not tied to one particular pattern, and you can choose the best deals. Each piece is a great conversation starter, and even cups that might not be beautiful on their own gain a new appeal when mixed together. It’s like a beautiful patchwork quilt. Bonus: with all those different patterns, people are less likely to get their drinks mixed up!

Here are some pictures of my old and new treasures at the party. I love how it all turned out, and I admit I still have my eye out for some more good deals on cute teacups and serving items.

Eclectic tea party: Browse thrift stores and eBay to create a unique and charmin.g collection of china for a charming table setting

Browse thrift stores and eBay to create a unique and charming collection of china for a charming table setting. Those little tiered serving trays are quintessential “tea time”!

Eclectic tea party: Browse thrift stores and eBay to create a unique and charming collection of china for a charming table setting

Fresh flowers add to the romantic feel of an afternoon tea party.

Since this was a Storybook-themed baby shower, I can’t believe I forgot to bring out the Peter Rabbit and Bunnykins cups!

Bunnykins and Peter Rabbit place settings.  These are perfect for a tea party baby shower.

Bunnykins and Peter Rabbit place settings. These are perfect for a tea party baby shower… if only I had remembered to use them!

Remember when I lined my living room shelves with Imperial Trellis wallpaper?  It’s the perfect place to store all the new teacups and other pretty items!

Collect teacups and serving items for a mix-and-match tea party.

I found a home for all the new teacups and serving items in our bookcase, which I lined with Imperial Trellis wallpaper.

Our menu


Of course, a tea party would not be complete without sandwiches. Maura, my cohost, and some of our other friends helped make this gorgeous spread, which tasted as good as it looked. The sandwiches were:

  • egg salad with curry
  • cream cheese and smoked salmon
  • cucumber and Boursin cheese
  • cucumber, tomato, and hummus


I made the cupcakes and am so happy with the results. I actually started with Trader Joe’s boxed cake mixes, but I customized them as follows. Thanks to Sophie for the decorating help!

  • Lemon cupcakes with lemon frosting. Starting with yellow cake mix, I added the zest of one lemon, the juice of third of a lemon, and about a tablespoon of lemon extract. For the frosting, I added juice from another third of the lemon and a couple of teaspoons of lemon extract.
  • Chocolate cupcakes with mocha frosting. Starting with the chocolate cake mix, I added some cocoa to make it extra chocolate-y. For the frosting, I made a mix of hot chocolate powder and instant decaffeinated coffee powder in as little water as possible (about half a cup). We used this liquid instead of water when mixing the frosting.

Fruit Salad

I cut a watermelon to look like an old-fashioned baby carriage and tied a ribbon on it for decoration. I used sewing pins to keep the ribbon in place. I’ve seen much more elaborate versions of this, with orange slices for wheels and more decorations, but even with many friends helping in the kitchen, we ran out of time. It was still cute, and we definitely needed a healthy break from the cupcakes!

Scones and shortbread

The scones were a mix of bakery scones and Trader Joe’s frozen blueberry scones, baked up with an egg wash and brown sugar sprinkled on top. These are really surprisingly delicious. Our friend Beth made her family’s shortbread recipe, which is amazing. I am waiting to get the recipe from her, because it tastes so much like my mom’s, and it holds a printed design well, so I want to try my patterned rolling pin with it.

Sandwiches on a tiered serving tray are perfect for afternoon tea.

Sandwiches on a tiered serving tray are perfect for afternoon tea.

Lemon and chocolate-mocha cupcakes.  Both started as plain cake mix with some special ingredients mixed in!  Jewels at Home.

Lemon and chocolate-mocha cupcakes. Both started as plain cake mix with some special ingredients mixed in!

Watermelon baby carriage with fruit salad. From Jewels at Home.

Watermelon baby carriage with fruit salad.

If you’re planning your own tea party, you can find many more inspirations by browsing the menus at Lovejoy’s, DarTealing, or one of the other amazing tea rooms.

You can also try this ducky cake I made for another baby celebration!

Ducky cake for baby shower.  Marble cake topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.  Jewels at Home.

Ducky cake for baby shower. Marble cake topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Many of us at the party were already talking about making a semi-regular event out of “cupcakes and crafts,” so hopefully I will get lots more use out of all my “new” old china… and get to enjoy more cupcakes! Also, look out for more baby shower ideas coming soon!



Alternatives for Birthday Gifts and Party Favors

My kids have so much in the way of toys and games – proving it is indeed possible to have too much of a good thing. Not only do I worry that this makes it hard for them to learn the true value of things, but the ubiquitous toys and trading cards simply make a mess in a house that is already cluttered, and when the boys start arguing over a toy, then I’ve really had it!

So, this post on “Less is More” at My Modern Asian Family blog really resonated with me. I’m sure a lot of us can relate to this mom’s frustration with kids’ clutter, including the little plastic bags of little plastic toys that accompany a lot of birthday parties.

Over the years, my friends and I have tried a variety of innovative alternatives to birthday gifts and to the treat/loot/goody bags that are given out as party favors. Quick summary: for parties, you can try having no gifts, gift exchanges, donations, or gift/donation hybrids; for treat bags and gifts, think of some truly useful items or ones that can be used up and not leave a little trail of plastic crumbs…

As for the parties, I’ve been lucky that my kids have always been receptive to these alternatives. I explain that their birthday party itself is a gift and that they will still get some presents from their grandparents and aunts and uncles, and I haven’t had any arguments so far. I try to rotate the ideas around – sometimes we’ll do a standard party with gifts, especially if it’s small; sometimes we’ll do an exchange, and I plan to try the donations soon.

No Gifts
We’ve thrown several parties where I simply asked for “no gifts, please.” This works, though only to an extent. I think we are all so accustomed to bringing a gift to a birthday party that some parents don’t notice the request and others just really want to bring something for the birthday boy. This is very kind, though I do worry that it might be awkward when some guests bring a gift and some do not. If you try this, I would recommend putting it in big bold print and really emphasize it, eg. “Please do not bring a birthday gift. Our children are already fortunate to have so much, we would like to spend this day focusing on the celebration, rather than gifts.” A little cheesy but also to the point, you could add: “Your presence is your present.”

Gift Exchange
This is a favorite idea at our house. We’ve done both book and puzzle exchanges, in which each guest brings an unwrapped book or puzzle and each child takes one home. This can substitute for both the birthday present as well as for the treat for guests. You can let the birthday boy or girl pick first, so he or she still feels special, and I always put a few extra books or puzzles in the pile, so there’s lots of choice and a little bonus for the birthday boy. I find the exchanges get more universal uptake than simply requesting “no gifts,” because the parents all feel like they brought something. Another great thing about this idea is that a book or puzzle makes a more substantial and useful treat to take home, without breaking the bank for the party host… Though admittedly I have a lot fun with the treats and sometimes still do them.

Instead of birthday gifts and party favors, do a book exchange!  From Jewels at Home.

Instead of birthday gifts and party favors, do a book exchange!

We have some friends who have done a wonderful job throwing “pay it forward”-themed birthdays for their daughter. One year, they collected change in a jar to donate to charity; other years, they have collected canned goods for a food bank. Again, I think this satisfies people’s sentiment that they want to bring something to a party, and what a wonderful lesson for all the children! I’m ready to try this idea with the older boys, now that they are at an age where they can appreciate the concept.

Gift/Donation Hybrid
My friend Betsy co-founded this clever organization called Clover by Clover. You should check them out for the details, but the idea is that your child can pick a charity and a single gift. Then, people donate to a fund, and the money will be divided between the gift and the charity your child picked. What a good way to make your birthday child feel like they got a special gift while also teaching about the value of sharing.

Innovative Gifts to Give
No doubt, the kids love toys and gadgets, and I’m happy to indulge that for a special occasion. For those times I’ve felt like doing something different, here are some non-toy options that will still be fun for the kids:

  • Magazine subscription – There are lots of fun kids magazines that could be suited to a child’s interest, and we know kids love getting mail with their name on it. Some titles they might enjoy are Ranger Rick from the National Wildlife Foundation or American Girl magazine.
  • Adopt an animal – Almost every child has a favorite animal, and you can find an organization that helps these animals and make a donation on their behalf. Many have “adoption” programs where you’ll get a certificate and maybe some information about the animal and a small toy. Some examples are the World Wildlife Fund and the San Francisco Zoo.

Inspirations for Treat Bags
Into each birthday party, some plastic junk must fall, but I do try to minimize it. Here are some examples of great small gifts we’ve given or gotten at kids’ parties. My favorites are items that are  can either be used for a long time or consumed right away, so all my mommy friends will not be left with an unpleasant birthday aftermath.

Ideas for enduring party favors:

  • Cloth bags – I’ve decorated these cotton canvas drawstring bags/backpacks for several of our parties, and I know people often use them for taking toys on a trip or to a restaurant. I add an iron-on appliqué to fit the theme of the party and write each child’s name in puffy fabric paint. Kids love seeing their names on things! We’ve also received some of the larger tote bags from parties, and we reuse those for groceries or bringing toys to the beach.
  • High quality toys and books – I usually pick just one or two high quality things to give away rather than a lot of smaller items. Examples are the small paperback books, which I have sometimes found in the Target dollar zone, or the wooden-handled skipping rope I gave away at our Pioneer-themed birthday party.
Decorate cloth bags for a birthday party favor that can be put to good use.  By Jewels at Home.

Decorate cloth bags for a birthday party favor that can be put to good use.

Ideas for party favors that won’t linger and clutter

  • Healthy snacks – dried fruit or healthier types of crackers and cookies can make a nice addition to a treat bag. For our bug-themed party, I made these cute butterfly snack bags to go with the theme of the party. We also did a book exchange at that party.
  • Stickers or art supplies – these almost always get used up, at least at our house, so they make fun little gifts that won’t end up as immortal clutter in the toy bin.
Butterfly snack bags for a bug-themed birthday party.  By Jewels at Home.

Butterfly snack bags for a bug-themed birthday party.

So, for Modern Asian Mom and the rest of us drowning in clutter and tripping over small toys, go ahead and try some of these ideas for the next birthday party you give or attend.


Buggy Birthday to You! Bug-themed Kids’ Party

It’s so rewarding to throw a kids’ birthday party. Children are so naturally exuberant about their special day already, and you can take your theme completely over-the-top, if you have the inclination, time, and energy!

Throwing a sixth birthday party for our middle guy earlier this year was especially fun, as I had been out of party mode for a while with the baby, and the birthday boy had finally emerged from his terrible 2-3-4s and was busy charming us again, so it felt great to celebrate him. He loves nature – it’s amazing how he will notice the smallest flower or animal and stop to point it out to us – so I wanted to do something with that theme. And I decided to do it at home, which is easier for preparing a lot of decorations and activities, as well as when there is a younger sibling’s naps to work around.

A bug-themed birthday was perfect for our little nature-lover.

A bug-themed birthday was perfect for our little nature-lover.

I did some searches on the internet and found Insect Discovery Lab with great reviews! They have also done presentations at our kids’ school, so I knew they would be well-received. There are other traveling bug shows, and even reptiles, but the latter was a bit much for my squeamish side. Even with Insect Discovery Lab, I had to wonder (but it turned out fine!)

Insect Discovery Lab put on a fun show for the kids!

Insect Discovery Lab put on a fun show for the kids! I watched from a safe distance!

In planning activities, I had in mind that I wanted to make the birthday boy a quilt. Long-ish story, but we ended up unexpectedly buying a class quilt for our oldest at the school fundraising auction a couple of years ago. It was definitely not premeditated, more like second-degree over-spending. In any case, having just bought a fixer-upper of a house, I had to tell our birthday boy that we would not be buying his class quilt this year (unless some form of auction manslaughter were to happen), but I promised him I would make him a quilt instead. I cut blank quilt squares for his friends to draw on using fabric markers, and I’ll be joining them into a quilt, hopefully some time before his next birthday!

Each party guest can decorate a quilt block - by Jewels at Home

Blank quilt squares for the kids to decorate with fabric markers.

The other activities were found at Oriental Trading: we had were insect tattoos – some of the older kids helped out with this – and suncatchers. I set up the tattoos and wet towels, and some of the older kids helped the younger ones get tattoos. The suncatchers were popular but a bit messy. I later read a tip to use markers, which would have been neater, though probably not as colorful. Next time, I would put them on individual paper plates for people to paint and transport home, because the paint does take several hours to dry.

Temporary tattoo station

Temporary insect tattoos. I provided some damp towels, and the older kids helped out.

Suncatchers from Oriental Trading Company

Suncatchers from Oriental Trading Company

Suncatchers from Oriental Trading Company

As I mentioned, for someone who works in a biology-related field, I’m pretty squeamish, and a lot of the ideas out there for bug-themed birthdays are a bit gross (think plastic bugs in food). So, I set out to find ideas that were more abstract and focused on the “cuter” insects like ladybugs, while not being too cute for a six-year old boy.

Some of the best ideas I found were those around Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It’s a bit young for the six-year olds, but it worked. These apple and cheese caterpillars were inspired by Cute Food for Kids, where there are many more great ideas. I dipped the apples in orange juice to keep them from browning during the party.

Hungry caterpillar apple and cheese snacks by Jewels at Home.

Hungry caterpillar apple and cheese snacks.

The cake was inspired by a beautiful one posted at Week of Menus. I loved the look and taste of the whipped cream and fresh fruit, and it seems healthier than a standard frosted cake, even if it is still, you know, cake. I used the same idea to make a baby shower cake with a ducky for my friend.

Whipped cream and fresh fruit for a bug-themed birthday cake by Jewels at Home.

Whipped cream and fresh fruit for a bug-themed birthday cake by Jewels at Home.

We also served farfalle “butterfly pasta” with cheese and hot dog-spaghetti bugs.


For the treat bags, I used these cotton drawstring backpacks, also from Oriental Trading Company. I’ve done this several times, and I think the quality has gone downhill a bit in the past few years, but they still make nice reusable bags. My kids often pack their “going out” toys and activities in here, if they need to be occupied at a restaurant or accompanying one of us to work for a few hours.

I used puffy fabric paint to personalize the bags and added iron-on appliques to fit with the theme. These iron-ons were adorable, but I actually did have some problems with them falling off with some wear from the kids. In the past, I used appliques made with fusible backing on plain fabric, which I outlined in puffy paint, and they held up better.

Drawstring backpacks decorated as treat bags by Jewels at Home.

Drawstring backpacks personalized as treat bags.

Iron-on insect appliques

Iron-on insect appliques

For the party favors, I lucked out and found some inexpensive bug-themed books and pencils. I also made little snack bags filled with cookies and dried fruit and pinned with a clothespin, to make the look like butterflies. I first saw the idea on this board on Pinterest.

Inexpensive finds for party favors

Inexpensive finds for party favors

Butterfly snack bags for party favors by Jewels at Home

Butterfly snack bags for party favors.

It turned out to be a very fun birthday party!  There are so many great ideas out there, and I didn’t have time to do them all, but I collected some more options on a Pinterest board that you can check out, if you are looking for ideas to do your own bug birthday party!


Kindergarten Graduation Party!

School is out! I feel sad about this, but there were points this year where I began to resent the winter holidays and the end of the school year. Somehow, the things that I normally love – like preparing gifts and planning parties – just became too much of a good thing. There were too many late nights and deadlines. But, we survived, and we did have some fun along the way, too, of course! I’m thinking about how to make the next rounds less hectic, and I have to say that traveling right after school ends may not be the best idea. No point in adding packing suitcases to the already long to-do list!

One of the big events of this month was planning a Kindergarten graduation party with my friend Ari. Our children just completed their K year, and we wanted to celebrate this big achievement with them. We started with some ideas from this article Ari found over at Yum Sugar: Fun Party Ideas for Your Little Graduates. Plenty of inspiration there, though we didn’t want quite that much sugar!

We held a small park playdate for our kids and their closest buddies after the half day of school.


Yummy Treats

Since, it was after lunch, we didn’t need a lot of food, but we knew the kids would need some fuel after all that running around.

We had fruit in ice cream cones, an idea I had spotted on Pinterest:

fruit in waffle cones

Serve fruit in waffle cones for a healthier snack. You could add chocolate or nuts to the cones for a treat! We served the fruit on the side, and let each person scoop their own, so the cones wouldn’t get soggy.

Cupcakes were the sweet indulgence.  I made the cupcake toppers using coffee stir sticks and paper.   You can download the PDF I created in Powerpoint here: Kindergarden graduation cupcake toppers. It’s actually in color, but I didn’t have easy access to a color printer, so I printed them in black and white and added color in the background papers.

Cupcakes with Kindergarten graduation toppers by Jewels at Home

Cupcakes with Kindergarten graduation toppers.

Download printable: Kindergarden graduation cupcake toppers

Decor and Favors:

These bubbles were Ari’s idea, and it was brilliant and adorable!  We made the hats out of construction paper and yarn, and it looks like the little faces are wearing graduation caps!  A lot of the parents were taking pictures of the bubbles, since we certainly had no hope of getting the kids to line up for a picture.

Bubbles decorated for Kindergarden graduation at Jewels at Home

Bubbles decorated for Kindergarden graduation.

The party favors had a school theme, with these bookmarks that Ari created to give along with some pencils and notebooks.

Bookmark graduation gift at Jewels at Home

Bookmark graduation gift.

Kindergarden graduation favors at Jewels at Home

Kindergarden graduation favors

Looking back on the chaos of the week, I’m really happy we did this for the kids.  Once the planning and work was done, it was a fun way to unwind at the end of the school year.

Welcome to summer!