13 March 2017
Ever since Brooke wrote about throwing a “Favorite Things” party many moons ago, I’ve wanted to host one myself! The rapidly-approaching end of my 60 Before 30 project was enough to get my butt in gear, and I’m so happy to say that this eagerly-anticipated event was just as fun as I thought it would be. Here’s how I organized mine, in case you’re interested in hosting your own!
Instead of inviting my usual roster of friends, I decided to use this party as an opportunity to get to know our neighbors a bit better. To make things simple, I issued a Facebook invitation. Here’s the text I used in case you’d like to copy it :)
Hi friends and neighbors!
I’ve wanted to host a “favorite things” party for a long time, and figured Valentine’s Day and meeting more neighbors were perfect excuses! :)
If you reply YES (which I hope you do!), plan to bring your favorite thing with you on the 16th (anything you like… your favorite lip balm, favorite kitchen tool, favorite gift wrapping supply, a gift card for your favorite frozen yogurt, favorite plant, etc.). Don’t spend more than $10, and bring THREE of the same thing (for a total of $30 or less). You’ll go home with the favorite things of three other ladies!
If you’d like to bring a dessert or bottle of wine or another drink to share, as well, that would be great! You can comment below with what you’ll bring so we can all get excited :)
Finally, please feel free to extend the invitation to any other ladies you love in [our neighborhood]!!
Looking forward to it!
Going the Facebook route made it very easy for friends to invite other friends, something I was really trying to encourage! We ended up having three gals attend who I’d never even met before – success!
The party was on a Thursday, starting at 8pm (after kiddos were in bed – another bonus of it being neighborhood-centric was that everyone just walked over, some in slippers, after lights out!). The first half hour or so was spent chatting and eating dessert, the second was spent passing out the “things,” and the third was spent chatting :) For decor, I cherry-picked the Target Dollar Spot on February 15.
Upon arrival, I had everyone write their names on three slips of paper and fill out one of the interview cards I made:
Then, I read the cards one by one, and everyone tried to guess who had written each. The person who guessed correctly introduced her favorite thing, then drew three slips of paper from the bowl and gave her things to those three guests. We continued until everyone had three new things to go home with!
I had a duo for my favorite thing: EO French Lavender hand soap, which I first smelled at Serenbe and always makes me feel like I’m in a fancy hotel, and a few brownie bites from Whole Foods. If you haven’t tried the latter yet, you probably shouldn’t – they are my ultimate WF weakness. Other gals brought cute socks, a milk frother, a body scrub, a silpat mat and three favorite recipes, and face masks, to name a few.
This was such a fun evening – in fact, we’ve already talked about making it a twice-yearly tradition! I was definitely nervous to put myself out there, especially without my usual crew around me, but I think the “favorite things” aspect actually lowered the pressure, because there was something to “do” instead of just stand around and chat. Highly recommended all around :)
Have you ever been to a Favorite Things party? What would you bring if you were invited to one? It was really hard to decide!
20 February 2017
How are you all feeling about your 2017 goals, if you made some? (My company actually declared last week “Cultivate What Matters Week” because February 15th is statistically the day that the majority of people give up on their yearly goals!) I am feeling pretty good overall. I’m particularly excited about one practice I’ve implemented to help with my second and third focal areas: loving my loved ones well and cultivating a rich life for my family.
If you’re curious about my planner, you can read more about it here!
It’s my monthly prep days! When I thought about what had stopped me in the past from doing kind and fun things for the people I love, it wasn’t a lack of money or time, it was a lack of preparation. This came up over and over again as I filled out my PowerSheets, and eventually led to my word of the year (preparation!).
Starting in January, I’ve designated one day a month my monthly prep day. They’re usually on the last Sunday of the month, and I’ve already put them on my calendar for the rest of the year. I’ve noticed a huge difference in just the two months I’ve tried them so far, and wanted to share! Here’s what I do:
— After June goes to bed, I sit down with a few supplies: my laptop, my planner, my perpetual birthday calendar, and my phone.
— First, I note any birthdays coming up in the next month. If I’m going to send a card, I write the card, address it, and put a stamp on it. If I’m going to get a gift, I decide what it’s going to be and order it (or make a plan to buy it). I also set individual reminders on my phone to call or send a text to each person on his or her birthday.
— Then, I look through my planner and note any upcoming holidays or events. Where appropriate, I decide how we’re going to celebrate, and then make a plan. For example, in February, we had the Super Bowl, the Walking Dead premiere (ha!), Valentine’s Day, the Oscars, my Favorite Things party, and my birthday. Right then and there, I decided what special game day food we were going to make for the Super Bowl, I made a note to buy a Valentine’s Day card for John, I decided what we were going to do for June’s teachers for Valentine’s Day, I made the invite for the Favorite Things party, and more. Not everything gets done that evening, but I try to at least make a plan for anything I can’t do right then.
— I run down some of our normal monthly happenings and consider whether we want to schedule anything for the month: dinner with friends? A date night? A trip to the Museum of Life & Science? Some other sort of adventure? If necessary, I reach out to friends, make a restaurant reservation, etc.
— If a babysitter is required for any event, I text our babysitter and try to get on her calendar.
— Finally, I try to think if there’s anyone that’s been on my heart — someone who’s been celebrating or hurting, or who I just haven’t connected with in a while. If applicable, I take some sort of action there!
All told, my monthly prep usually takes about two hours. I do NOT do it perfectly, it needs to be said. Even with all this forethought, I forget things, I leave things to the last minute, I say the wrong thing or don’t say anything at all when something should be said. But I’m trying! And instituting these prep days has helped me immensely.
The downside? Decision fatigue can set in big time, and John is not always on board to be peppered with questions about what we should do for this or that (which is fair enough, since I’m working on my timeline, not his!).
One final tip: If you see someone celebrating in a way you love and you want to try it yourself, write it down! I have a simple doc on my computer, split into months, where I write down cute or clever ideas I see. Just got a lot for Valentine’s Day 2018 from all the sweet things you guys posted last week :)
I’d love to hear: do you have any systems for thoughtfulness? Or are you just a naturally, spontaneously fun and celebratory person? :)
17 February 2017
June’s first birthday fell on a Saturday, a delightful gift from the universe! We spent the actual day just with our family of three, hunkered down for a snow storm that never really arrived and reminiscing throughout the day about what we’d been doing one year before. We surprised her with pancakes and blueberries for breakfast and a gold star balloon tied to her high chair (one per year – a tradition I lifted from my friend Emily!). I also hung a birthday banner that I’m hoping will make an appearance for years to come. (I bought this one, then re-threaded it with a pink ribbon instead of the neon orange one it came with.)
She was super into the candle :) For dinner, John and I made our very favorite lasagna recipe, salad, garlic bread, and chocolate lava cakes for the grown-ups – after all, we were celebrating, too!
After June was tucked into her crib with lots of extra kisses, John and I sat down and each wrote her a letter. Then, for some unknown reason, we decided to read them to each other (???), which of course resulted in an ugly cry for both of us. We just feel really grateful to be her parents. We hope to add a letter each year, for her to open maybe on her 18th birthday!
The following Saturday, we invited a few family and friends over to celebrate again! Our parents made the trip down from Connecticut, Natalie, Joe, and Maisie came from Virginia, and some loved ones from church, our neighborhood, and just life joined us, too. It was not a particularly “Pinterest-y” party, though not for lack of trying, haha! We went with a loose kitty theme, and my favorite project was the pink party hats (though most of the kid guests refused to wear them!).
My most well-planned party this was not. I wanted to try my hand at a naked cake, but didn’t have a clear plan going in and so ended up making way too many layers in all the wrong sizes, stayed up too late, and generally winged it. But, both the cutting cake and June’s little smash cake turned out okay in the end. June took approximately three adult-size bites over the course of twenty minutes, one crumb at a time :)
My plan for the table was to write and draw with white chalk on a black roll of kraft paper, but I left the paper purchasing until the last minute and so was stuck with shiny wrapping paper that my chalk wouldn’t write on. (One party guest even asked if it was a trash bag, which I just had to laugh about. Generally not good when your decorations are mistaken for trash bags :))
One thing that did go right? All of the photos of June’s first year we strung up throughout our kitchen, dining, and living room. I was inspired by something Sam did for Perry’s first birthday party, and I loved the effect! In fact, we still have a few strands up even now.
Perfect party details or not, we had a lot of fun celebrating our sweet girl! There’s always year two for the smoothly frosted cake and chic details :)
5 January 2017
I know I’ve already shared my 2017 goals and am looking ahead to the new year, but before it fades too far in the distance I wanted to share about June’s first Christmas! It was simple and very sweet. Here’s a little peek, if you’d like to see…
On Thursday, December 22, we fed June dinner, gave her her bath, put her in her jams, and then John loaded up the car while I fed her. After that, we popped her in her car seat and hit the road!! I drove north from 9pm to 4am (!), and June only woke up briefly on our one stop for gas. John took over driving for the last leg, from 4 until we arrived at his parents’ house in Connecticut at 6:30am (while I slept in the backseat).
You guys, this COULD NOT have worked out better – I would drive overnight a million times over, especially a baby June’s age. It was completely painless for her, and relatively painless for us — there was no traffic, and no stopping for meals or anything else, so we made fantastic time. The only downside was that because I drank a fair amount of coffee (maybe 8 ounces?) to help stay awake and LITERALLY never drink coffee – the most I had probably ever had before this was a single sip – I felt queasy the following day. Thankfully, by our second day in Connecticut, I was back to normal. Next time, I think I’ll plan to step up and down the caffeine intake a bit more gradually :)
We spent the first four days of our trip with the Thomas side at John’s parents’ house. Everyone was there, meaning eight adults and three kids (2.5, 1.5, and 1). Yes, it was a little crazy, but overall so much fun! John is representative of the whole Thomas clan in that they tend to be low-key and easygoing, so that helps :) We played lots of board games, did a 1000-piece puzzle, went for walks in the neighborhood, pretended we were tigers and seagulls with Wes, sang along with Johnny Guitar (John’s uncle-name!), and ate delicious food made by my mother-in-love.
On Christmas Eve, we went to the candlelight service at John’s childhood church and dressed the cousins in matching jams for bed, then spent Christmas morning opening presents and eating monkey bread. June got lots of clothes, a toy train, books, and some chunky puzzles! The grandparents also held down the fort one night so the siblings and spouses could go see Rogue One in theaters. (Loved it, but I really want to see La La Land!)
Midway through the week we packed up all of our stuff (LOTS of stuff)… then drove it ten minutes across town to my parents’ house and unpacked it all :) We spent the next four days at the Ayer casa. I got to see my parents’ new kitchen renovation (amazing!! Thinking of sharing photos here because it is so beautiful!), plus see extended family at a dinner we hosted and lots of childhood friends and my parents’ friends at a cocktail party one evening. In between, we went for walks, visited Sift in Mystic, ate peanut butter balls, followed June up and down the stairs, and played more board games. We also had a second “Christmas morning,” which my older sister Kate joined via Google Hangout – she and Cormac decided not to travel this year because my newest nephew was born at the very end of September!
On New Year’s Eve we again packed up our stuff and drove about 6.5 hours to Northern Virginia, where Natalie and Joe recently moved. This was the perfect stopover on our drive, and in addition to June getting to check out all of her cousin’s toys, we had a lovely low-key, pajama-clad, takeout-Chinese and Trader-Joe’s-raspberry-tart New Year’s Eve.
We made it home on Sunday with enough time to unpack a bit, go grocery shopping, and generally get ready for a new week. June was SUCH a traveling champ, for which we are so grateful! Time with our families is so precious, and this week did not disappoint.
Since Marget and Seth now live in California, there’s talk of a Cali Christmas in 2017… so June’s second celebration might look very different than her first! :)
Hoping you all had wonderful holidays, as well!!