Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How to Plan a Last Minute Birthday Party

The Headlines:


Sometimes you just don't have time.

So do a QUICK SIX (birthday party)!

Here are 5 Tips:



I love planning parties.  Kids birthday parties have long been one of my favs.  Your kids are only young once.  You get one shot of making those memories light up the rest of their lives.  Maybe yours too!

But let's be honest.  Life is busy.  We got things going on... we can't aways spend hours on party plans.  Like the "Police Birthday Party or the "Savvy-Chic" Birthday Party  I pulled off a few years ago.  Those took some time.

This year, when my son's birthday party rolled around I was less than enthusiastic.  I was worn out from busy holidays, sports seasons, work and family!  So I decided to do something that took little time.  And guess what?  It turned out great.  Kids happy.  People fed.  Love spread.  Memories made.


Here's how we did it.

1 - Find a Quick Theme
And embrace it.  My son LOVES football.   To date, he's now made AND thrown a Pick 6 (interception, followed by a touchdown, for those of you who, like me, knew not).  It's all he talks about!  So, I decided, rather than a Pick 6 - let's do a QUICK 6 Birthday party.  Yes, he was turning 6 years old.  It would be a generic, "thrown together," fast party!  Yes, I made the invites.  That's my own hang up.  But I will say, as I always do... it does set the tone.




2 - Hire someone  
It was time to call in a game truck!  I found a company to come in, for 2 hours, and the kids LOVED IT!  There were video games and dancing video games.  Room for like 22 kids (plus).  It not only made them happy - but me too.  It was the main source of fun.  It cost about $300, so it's not cheap.  But worth every penny!


3 - Decor
Sometimes you think of the theme and find stuff to go with that.  Other times, you make a theme around what you find.  In a last minute party that can easily happen.  At which point, number 1 switches with number 3.  Does that make sense?  Hopefully.  Here - while I had a basic theme idea in my head - I wasn't sure how I was going to pull it off.  So, I went to Michael's.  I saw some black and white cups and wrapping paper, both, you could color (below).  I also grabbed black and white serving items and black masks that scratch off to make designs.  Plus some B/W favors and the party was planned in minutes.


I used that wrapping paper to cover all table surfaces.  The main table, the cake table, the candy buffet and even my kitchen Island.  Then I threw markers and pencils around so kids could color anywhere!  

4 - Food/Cake  
I chose as many black and white food options as I could find!  Black (dark purple) grapes, white popcorn,  hot chocolate & marshmallows (which they were supposed to drink from their b/w cup they colored), white creme puffs... white bread sandwiches & a dark juice drink (not pictured) you get the drift.


Then of course that candy bar (which doubled as add ins to the take away bag)!


The cake... I made myself and not only decided to do black and white but gave it a sort of undone look... which was supposed to look like I did it fast but it also happens to be really chic right now!


5 - Other Activities
Finally tonight, even with the game truck and the coloring options, you need something else for kids to do.  Options at a party - are good!  So, the kids had a blast with our extra last minute addition which were these body bumper things.  A random, non-themed, fun activity which really worked!  Sometimes, it's the little things!

Not much work, last minute and generic... yet , a "Quick 6 Birthday Party" was born.  We all loved it.  And now you can too!  

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bad Mom Moments

The Headlines:


Have you ever had a Bad Mom Moment?

Maybe there's no such thing.



Warning: the contents of this post may offend someone.  I am sorry for that in advance.  But you don't have to read it.

It happens to everyone.  We all have Bad Mom moments.  Heck, they even made a movie about the subject.  It's more acceptable now.  To make mistakes.  To get it wrong.  It happened to me recently.   I got something really wrong.  I'm not proud of it.  I'm actually really embarrassed.  But my Bad Mom Moment worked.  My son, who was on the receiving end of my "badness..." changed his behavior.  Which made me think, I wonder if all the Bad Mom Moments actually equal good life learning for our kids.


Wouldn't that be nice?   It would kind of mean Bad Mom Moments aren't really that bad after all.

My son is pretty well behaved.  When he's at school.  An event.  Or someone's house.  He's good for coaches, friends, other people in general.  He is not, however, always good for me.  Recently, I had a really busy day.  It was a day, quite frankly, where I felt like I was losing my mind.  I know you've been there.  Plus, I had a headache, had no idea what was for dinner and we had to get to an Art Walk at school.  Something I really didn't want to do.  Nor did my daughter.  But we were going anyways.  Because my son wanted to see his master piece.

As I was trying to round everything up to head out my little 6 year old man was barking orders at me.  "We need to hurry, I want a snack, let's go - I want to play!"  There were incessant demands that were very rude.  And because of my head space at the moment I completely lost my marbles.

I yelled, a loud and very long:

SHHHHHHHHHHUUUUUUUUUUUUT--UUUUUUUUUUUP!!!!!!!!

Dare I say, it felt good?  Not cool, I know... but good.  For 5 seconds.  During which time there was complete silence.  He was in shock.  I was in shock.  I rarely say bad words and I certainly have never told my children to shut up.  But in that moment it was the best word(s) to use and exactly how I felt.

5 seconds of silence quickly turned to 30 seconds of "that's mean, you can't say that to your child, that's a bad word, you've never loved me... you would never say that to me if you loved me!"  Of course I felt 2 inches tall.  He was sent to his room to cool off as I reminded him I have always loved him and say that at least 5 times a day, everyday!


Afterwards, once cooler minds prevailed, I explained to him that if he speaks to me horribly - I will speak to him horribly right back.  It doesn't feel good for anyone.  Including Moms.

So here's the thing:  since then he hasn't spoken poorly to me.  Not really.  Not beyond his usually whiny-ness at least.  It's as if the SHHHHHHUUUUUUUUUUT--UUUUUUUUUUUUUUP worked!?  I'm not sure why.  I'm guessing it has to do with the fact that I did something so unexpected that it made a huge impact.  It was a Bad Mom Moment that may have turned into a good life lesson.

For us both.





Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wine Barrel Bar Table

The Headlines:


This is so cool.

You can make one yourself!

Here's how we did it... 




As you may or may not know I love to decorate.  It's been widely documented here on this blog.  And from time to time,  we try to make things.  I'm not sure why.  I guess, because 1, it's cool, 2... it's (usually cheaper) and 3, it's original.  Yours and only yours.

All 3 of those reasons is why BP (the husband) made this...


You can clearly see it's a bar top table.  But not just any bar top... there's a wine barrel that supports it.

It's fairly "easy."  Well, self explanatory.  First you gotta find the barrel.  That's probably the hardest part.  But check Craigs list.  I found some there.  Then, he bought some wood, planed, glued and "doweled" the pieces together for the table top.  Then he cut it in a circle.  It was a little bowed so he bought some galvanized steel pipes and flanges... spray painted them black and affixed them to the bottom of the circular table top.  It pretty much fixed that problem.



Then he stained the wood, multiple times.  It sucked a lot up.  Finally, he added a resin top.  We've done glass before but bugs tend to get caught in it outside unless the seal is stellar.  Which is hard.

The resin is tricky but super cool looking.


It's very reflective.  But I caution, perfection is tough to accomplish.  After you mix and pour (according to the instructions) you really need a torch so you can blow out all the bubbles like you see in the picture above.  But even with that.. beware some will remain.  It's okay, gives it character.

In the end, we love it.  We use it all the time.  More than our large outdoor dining table for sure.  Now you go!



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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Easy Restaurant Asian Style Rib Crockpot recipe

The Headlines:


These are the best Asian style ribs you'll ever make. 

Or maybe eat.

They take 15 minutes of your time.

It's a MUST DO.



I don't know about your house but in mine... ribs are big.  Like mighty huge.  My husband honestly can't get enough of them... if they're good.  He typically does all the rib making.  Until this...



Tangy, with a tinge of spice, fall off the bones, melt in your mouth, can't get enough of them Ribs.

I haven't made these babies in a couple years... but I pulled them out over VDay.  Huge hit.  Huge.  And here's the deal, they take almost no time or ingredients to put together.  I mean really.  Recently, my husband and his friend used something called the "Ribalizer" (seriously) to make some fall off the bone ribs.  Don't get me wrong they were good.  But these were better.  And you don't need a "Ribalizer."  Just your trusty old crockpot.

The best part - practically all of the ingredients can be found in your pantry already!

Here's What You need:
1 rack of ribs - or 2 (if you do 2, double all of the ingredients below) 
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup of low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
*optional - 2 tablespoons fresh ginger (I actually used some pickled ginger in my fridge) 
8 cloves of chopped garlic
1/2 tspn red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons of corn STARCH 
3 scallions thinly sliced
1 tspn sesame seeds 

Here's What You Do:
In a small bowl, blend sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, ginger, garlic and red pepper.


Place ribs in slow cooker, add the sauce.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until meat is tender.  I mean these are so quick and easy you can also start it on high for 2 hours and switch it to low after that for a couple more.  Depends on your crockpot.

Transfer ribs to platter, drain sauce into sauce pan.  Combine cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water then pour in sauce pan.  Bring all of that that to a boil on high heat and cook for 2-3 minutes, while stirring until thickened.  Top ribs with some of the sauce, sprinkle scallions and sesame seeds over the dish.  Serve with remaining sauce on the side or over rice or... whatever you choose!



Done.  Are they fabulous or what?

*sidenote, this time I accidentally used Corn SYRUP instead of Corn Starch so the sauce will usually coat the ribs a little better/heavier.  But it still tasted out of this world.  You really can't mess these up.  It may be impossible.

Trust me, these are the best ribs you're not making.  Now cancel that restaurant rezzie at your local dive Chinese joint and do these instead!


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Monday, February 6, 2017

What to Do If You Buy (or Sell) A House in 2017

The Headlines:


If you're going to buy a house this year...

Or sell this year.

Read this first.



Many of you know I love houses.  Buying, selling, decorating and remodeling houses is something I love to do.  It really became my passion while I was still working as a journalist in the Phoenix, Arizona market.  Because of that, many years ago I got my Real Estate License.  I've used it over the years for home sales and property management.  But now I want to do more.  In the past month I've met with and discussed Real Estate with Industry professionals and here are my 5 biggest take aways.



1 - Know What You Want
This is the first issue.  It's a simple one.  The most fun one.  What do you want to buy?  Make a list.  How many bedrooms, bathrooms, garage spaces?  Your Realtor will want to know specifics.  What's important to you?  Mountain view.  Kitchen Island.  Dining Room.  Where do you want to live?  Particular Subdivision, zip code or city.  Then finally, what are you deal breakers?  Busy road, no pool, grass you have to maintain.

Same goes with selling.  What do you have to do/spend to get your home ready?  What do you need to make for it to be worthwhile?  How many homes are for sale in your zip code?  Not many... that's good for a sale.  Not a lot of inventory = higher sale price.   Sure, your Realtor can help out with some of this, but do your own investigating first to be more informed.

Write things down and communicate them with your Realtor.  Home buying and selling is time consuming.  But it won't be as bad if you know exactly what you need and want.

2 - Buy What You're Comfortable with... NOT What You can Afford 
These are 2 different things.  You may make $4,000 a month but you can't spend $3500 on your mortgage.  Your Loan Officer will help you decide what you'll be comfortable with paying.  It's typically about 40-45% of your gross income.  And that's being generous.  YOU need to honestly evaluate your lifestyle and that will help you choose the price range for the house you can buy.

3- Interview Your Realtor and Loan Officer to Find the Right one FOR YOU.
There's a difference between Mortgage Brokers/Bankers/Banks. The first two more or less shops your mortgage around to get the right deal for you.  The latter has their bank wheelhouse to shop in.  Which one is better?  That depends on your specific situation.  Get recommendations from friends to get contacts.  Then talk to them about your options.  If they want your business, and they should, they'll tell you what you need to know to make the right decision.

Realtors are a dime a dozen.  You ever notice that?  In Los Angeles, where I went to college, every where you turned there were actors.  In Phoenix, it seems like everyone's a Realtor.  So, find the one that fits your needs.  That does NOT mean the one whose wearing the shiniest watch, the guy at the biggest brokerage or the person who's going to sell your house at the price you think it should be.   It  means you need to find the Realtor who will be honest, work the hardest and have your best interest at heart.  Greed isn't always good in Real Estate.

4 - Ask Questions
I firmly believe, there is no dumb question.  Well, almost never.  That's what years of asking questions has taught me.  Trust me, you'll feel a lot more dumb if you don't get the answers you need.  Realtors and Loan Officers are here to help.  They may not know everything but, if they're good, they'll find the answers.

I talked to a gal the other day who firmly believed you needed 20% down to buy a house.  NOT TRUE, I said!  With Conventional loans these days, many are only putting down 10%, sometimes 5%.  An FHA loan only requires 3.5%.  And in some locations, like Metro Phoenix, there are programs where they COVER your down payment.  Meaning, you pay nothing.   For instance, the "Home In 5" Program.  Those making $88k or less a year can qualify to buy homes in certain designated areas.  As long as you meet the requirements, the right mortgage broker can help you get into something you may never have known existed.

You just need to ASK!

5 - Take Your Time (but not too much)
There's no crystal ball but people believe 2017 will be a banner year for Real Estate.  Mortgage rates will stay fairly steady... and while that may not be what drives people to purchase homes, this will.  Like him or hate him, with the newly elected President Trump in office, there's a general feeling of positivity in the economic department.  And many believe, the economy drives home sales, not rates.  With more jobs, less taxes, better business on the horizon - things are changing.  Regardless of people rioting, boycotting, saying the same sentence for 4 years in a row.  Seriously.  Actor Shia LaBeouf really tried to do this, until he got arrested outside the NY Museum in late January.

In 2017, people will want to buy their first home, move up or invest.  And that's good for real estate!

Who knows what 2018 will bring.


Finally tonight,  to write this post I met with 3 Loan/Mortgage professionals.  They know their stuff, word hard and are full of good information.  Not to mention, they're all guys I actively refer people to and trust with my own dollars.  If you're in the market to buy a home and need some help getting started, give them a call, their info is below and in no particular order.

Happy Housing!


Erik Goldenson
KS State Bank
egoldenson@ksstate.bank
602-329-7230

Tom Maison
tom.maison@primeres.com
602-206-3144

Greg Halvorson  
greg.halvorson@usbank.com
480-227-5900

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Valentines Decorating

The Headlines:


It's a quick holiday after the big season.

But it deserves a little attention.

Here's how to love it.



Each year after New Years, we take it all off.  Yep, the tree comes down.  The wreaths, the stockings, the everything.  It all gets packed away for the following year.  We clean and scale down.  The house looks bare.  It's depressing.  Life is seemingly empty.

But alas... it is not.


It's time to throw out a little color and decor that is V-day.  Not much... I mean, c'mon, you just got through THEEE Super Bowl of holidays!  You just need enough to know the day exists.   Your kids will love you.  Your husband may not care.   But you, yes, you (remember you're in there too)!  YOU will be a little more amorous inside.  Promise.

Here are 5 steps:

1 - Pink and Red Baby
Pull it all out.  Hand towels (see them back there) and vases.  Whatever you got.  Don't go overboard.  Just enough.


2 - Go GLAM! 
Yep, as you're splashing those lovely colors around... get your glam out.  This means things that are shiny and sparkly!  Like in the picture above.  That's a Tiny Target vase for $3.  Or below.


Here, some closer looks.  The mixed metal pillow on the couch (Home Goods).  Or the XOXO garland I hung on my Window Screen Frame.


Or what about the tall, thin Rhinestone vase (which came from a Rose delivery years ago - yup, I kept it).... next to the large, mirrored, shiny votive (Home Goods).  It all adds to the drama that is Valentines Day!
3 - All About the Candy
What can be easier than sticking Red Licorice in jars?  Nothing.  I use this trick every time this time of year.  I think it's gorge.  I usually put it in all three containers.  But this year I added silver gum balls (from Party City).  See, Splash of Glam (refer back to #2)!


Or Red Hots in Hearts (refer forward to #4) sitting on your kitchen table.  How easy can you get?


4 - Get your HEART On
Here's another one: puts "hearts" and "love stuff" everywhere.  Simple.  Like above.  Or perhaps on the mantel and in your foyer like below.


That pillow is, again, from Target for 20 bucks.  I love it and can actually use it past Valentines... if I want.


5 - Get the Kids Involved
Finally tonight, get those kids in the spirit.  This is easy to do.  Go to the Dollar Tree.  Buy them some cute trinkets for a buck.  Signs, garland, lights.  You know the drill.   That's what we did here with this heart garland (from the Dollar Tree) in the Playroom and on my daughters headboard - the sign is from Target ($5)  - clearly I scored there this holiday!

**Sidenote, that dollar section when you walk in the door of Target is fabulous.  I kinda can't get enough of it.  Even though it's kind of going up in price.  Still good stuff for a bargain.  Way to go Tar-jhay!

And that is all... now go enjoy your Valentine Season as you LOVE your Home Decor!

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Elbow Grease

The Headlines:


Heard of elbow grease?

Neither had I...

Turns out, it's something we should all be using.




Last year was busy.  Aren't they all?  I feel like I run to catch up to each day and the years still fly by.  Especially since I had kids.  I wonder if that's how my Grandma felt?

Lessons From Grandma
She had 4 kids versus my two. She was a strong, German woman.  It's funny how you remember grandparents.  I remember her washing dishes.  Standing in that kitchen scrubbing away.  She was good at cleaning tough stuff.  I would see her work magic with a pot, pan or a chair cushion.  Sometimes even a good stain on a beloved shirt of mine.  There weren't many shirts so I needed the ones I had... she'd use this stuff called Elbow Grease.  I couldn't believe how great it worked.  My Grandma could do anything with that stuff.

It wasn't until one young, dumb day that I finally asked... what is this Elbow Grease stuff Gram?  She laughed and somehow explained to in her choppy, short way.  I couldn't believe that it didn't come from an actual bottle.  That, instead, it was something we all possessed.  Even me.


Sometimes I think that's what may be missing in our world right now.  Some simple Elbow Grease.


Putting Elbow Grease Into Action
It's something we've been trying to teach our kids for a while.  I think we may be getting some where.      My son started playing football last Fall.  He's 5.   The kid's not particularly huge, he's not even that fast.  But turns out, he loves that dang sport.  It's kinda crushing me, I saw that movie "Concussion" over the holidays.  Anyways, he wasn't that good.  I mean, really, not... that... good.  But he wouldn't stop playing football at home.  Everyday, passing to himself.  Calling plays.  Watching the real guys do it on TV.  It annoys his sister and tickles me.  But he is working hard.  Always.  The video below was this past Christmas Day.


Last weekend was his first game of the Winter season.  The kid ran like 40 yards for a TD up the middle and did something called a Pick 6... which I guess is when you intercept and run for a touchdown.  My word, I thought, he sure did use some Elbow Grease to get that job done.  I'm not saying he's going pro and I'm not even sure he'll ever have another game like that in his life.  But it doesn't matter - what does is he's working hard and going after what he wants.  Grandma would be proud.


I plan to use some Elbow Grease this year.  Like always, the husband (BP) and I will tackle some household projects.  We always come up with our list in January.  I was really proud of a couple past ones this last year like this Mega simple DIY Cardboard Letter, these Pendant Lights or my absolute FAV which is this huge Mirror I Antiqued.  But I'll even do one better and start to tackle Real Estate more.  I've had my license for over 10 years, we've bought and managed some rental properties and  homes are my passion.  I love showing them to people and finding the right one for their needs.  It's a privilege really.  Wouldn't you want a Picky Chick helping you find the right place to buy?  Click HERE for information - I'll be writing more about that soon so stay tuned.



Yet... as we do all those things, we'll also keep working hard to help these crazy kids, well, working hard.  These days our world seems incredibly lazy to me.  Like our mind-set needs a reset.  Kids these days think we should all be able to create some APP that makes a million dollars overnight.  But that's not what gets you to be great.  It's the hard work, the journey, the trouble along the way that makes a person unique - who they're supposed to be.

My daughter is a dancer.  She's been doing it since she was 3 years old.  She too has never been the best on her dance team.  I mean she is a shining light to us... but you know how that goes.  Anyways, last Summer we went to Las Vegas for her teams National Dance Convention.  At these things, young dancers from all over take classes, they compete their routines (solo and team) and they earn what they call "scholarships" for future dance conventions.  These things can get pricey.  It's always hard because some on your team may get picked and most of the others, don't.  It can be heartbreaking for these little boys and girls.  And, honestly, for the parents too.  So when we went - there wasn't much talk about any scholarships - we were just going to put our time in and get out.   The night before the scholarship announcement was a rough one.  We went out to a special dinner with some friends and the girls just melted.  It was a long week with a lot of hard work for 8 and 9 year olds.  But because she had an early wake up call, before bed we went over what she'd wear for the big day.  There was only one leotard left.  It was her black one.  The one she'd worn countless times for 2 years.  So along with some hand me down bootie shorts that was it.

The next morning she saw all of her friends with brand new leos and sparkly bows in their hair and she, as darling as she was... looked, well, not sparkly.  She was devastated.  Broken down.  Out of steam.  So I took her to the side and promised her 2 things:  they are not picking scholarships because of what you are wearing and you need to go out there and dance your heinie off if you want to win anything.

That by the way, didn't really work.

It was what I said next that kicked her into shape.  I told her we were leaving.  "If you're not having any fun then I don't want to be here.  We don't need to do this... let's go."

She didn't want to leave.  Instead, cautiously, she went in.  I stayed out and shed a few tears.  Apparently, she stayed tough, struck some poses and danced her heinie off like I told her.  Because hours later when the scholarships were announced it was the little girl in the black leotard with a middle part and a pony tail down her back who won one of them.  I couldn't have written it any better.  She may have been surprised but I was in shock.


See?  Elbow Grease.

Finally Tonight 
I like that my son isn't the best player on the Football team and that my daughter isn't the point in every dance.  It makes them want it even more, every week, all the time.  Some talents are given... others are earned.  I'm not sure what's best but I would say it's the talents that you refine on your own through hard work that may matter more.  At least in the long run.

Turns out Grandma really was on to something when she introduced me to Elbow Grease.  Guess it just goes to show some of the most valuable lessons may be the ones you've already learned.

Here's to 2017,

Nicole

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