When London Turned One

This week London turns two! We are going to celebrate with a tiny little party at our house with our family and a few close friends. Last year we celebrated big with a Laduree themed party for her first birthday. We love going big for first birthdays; some of you might remember back to Grey’s cardboard castle party!

I’ve hesitated in sharing these photos before now because of a few hurtful comments that were sent to us on Instagram about her party. A year later, I simply just don’t care what people say or think. So I’m sharing this celebration as it was a special day for our family and brought us so much joy- both in creating the details and the time we spent with those that mean the most to us.

We hand painted the little Laduree stand and filled it with desserts that were also hand made from felt. Our friend Andrew at the Olympic Fairmont Hotel opened up a small gathering space for us to use. Another friend, Brittany, created the invitation, napkins and that balloon arch. And yet another friend, Morgan, baked and decorated all of the incredible cakes, macarons and small sweet bites! All of it was beautifully captured by another dear friend, Kristen. I know some people will think we are crazy and this party was too over the top. Thats fine… everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But this party was a labor of love, created by friends, to be enjoyed by friends and it still brings me so much joy. I have no regrets, wouldn’t change a thing and would do it all over again!

These images are in no way insinuating that every parent should throw parties like this for their kids. Remember… this is what we do for a living. I’ve spent my entire adult life planning celebrations for other people, so of course I want to put effort and energy into the celebrations for my own children. And… most importantly… it brings us joy to be able to do it.

So with that disclaimer, I hope you enjoy this peek into London’s party! 

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From our family to yours…

It’s Christmas morning. Grey is already awake and waiting for us to tell him it’s time to run downstairs. London is still fast asleep. Jamie is getting ready. I’m taking a moment to pause, give thanks and just take it all in before the rush of the day begins. It wasn’t that long ago that I spent nearly every Christmas by myself, dreaming of having a family of my own. I remember those days well, so I feel especially grateful for all I have been blessed with.

While it still feels surreal that this is our last year as a family of four, we have had the best season creating memories for a lifetime and I can’t wait for our full house next year.

From our family to yours, we wish you a merry Christmas!

photos: Kristen Honeycutt Photo Co 

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Cookies with Kids

One of the best parts of the holidays is sharing the magic of the season with friends.  Every year we get together with our good friends Christiana and Todd and their kids and decorate cookies together. I still remember our first cookie party five years ago when there was only one kid decorating cookies. Jamie and I didn’t have any kids of our own, but we set up the party for our friend’s daughter because we knew she would love it. Times have changed and our families have grown! We now have five kids standing around our kitchen island decorating cookies, and next year there will be seven kids between our two families! We definitely believe the more the merrier… but we have also come to realize the more the messier! We don’t mind the kids making a mess, but we have discovered that the kids have more fun when things are a bit more organized and don’t feel as chaotic. We’ve learned a few things over the years about hosting a cookie party and thought we would share a few of our tips! Make the Dough! Use a good recipe for making your dough! We have previously posted Jenny Cookie’s sugar cookie recipe here  in addition to the best soft gingerbread cookies here. Make the dough early enough so you have time to roll your cookies out the day before your cookie party!

On another note… you could skip this step altogether! Check with your local bakery or grocery store to see if they have cookie decorating kits where you can just purchase fresh baked cookies directly from the store! Lets be honest… sometimes there just isn’t time to do all the baking yourself, and thats ok!

Roll it out! Roll the cookies out before all of the kids arrive! We used to have all of the kids participate in rolling out cookies. While it is fun to do with one or two kids, rolling out cookies with five kids, is tough. We found that they had a hard time being patient through rolling enough cookies to actually decorate and then waiting for them to bake and then cool. Most kids are really excited about adding the frosting and the sprinkles, so baking the cookies ahead of time allows the kids to do what they really love most!

I rolled out most of the cookies myself, but it sure was fun to have my little buddy next to me rolling out a little bit of dough and experimenting with how to use a rolling pin!

 3. The icing on the cookie! While I love the look of smooth royal icing on a sugar cookie, it’s not very easy or fun for kids to work with. We like using buttercream… or perhaps I should call it fake buttercream- you know the fluffy kind bakeries ice their cakes with that is entirely unhealthy but still tasty! You can find our recipe here from a post we did several years ago!

Make your icing ahead of time and color it to your desired shades! We use AmeriColor food coloring in small amounts, or just keep the icing white!

You can also just purchase icing from your local bakery or grocery store!

Sprinkle it up! At our very first cookie party two year old Isola referred to the sprinkles as “toppers” and the name has kind of stuck with us! We like to find a variety of fun and unique sprinkles in the color palette of the party. We source our sprinkles from places like Williams Sonoma , Wilton  or Etsy!

Minimize the mess! We don’t mind kids making the mess, but if we can minimize the amount of clean up we have to do afterwards, it gives us more time to spend with our family versus being overwhelmed with clean up! Here are a few supplies that have come in handy for us:

  • Takeout containers with lids work great to quickly color and store your icing
  • Disposable decorating bags allows for quick clean up at the end
  • Icing bag ties  help keep the frosting in the decorating bag by tying off the end
  • Small cookie sheets for each kid to decorate on keep the sprinkles (mostly) contained
  • Paper souffle cups  are perfect for rationing sprinkles out to each kid ( this helps us avoid the whole sprinkle bottle from being poured out on just one cookie or kids fighting over which color of sprinkles they currently want to use!)

Standing higher! We get the kids closer to the action with the use of towers and stepping stools. We have a couple of  these learning towers that have been gifted to us. We love this brand because of the solid construction and that the towers are adjustable for different heights to accommodate various stages of childhood. Our step-stools are probably from Target- Nothing special, but great to have on hand!

Freedom and Fun! I love that our kids feel free to decorate their cookies however they want. We try to just let them explore and figure things out on their own unless they ask for help. I love seeing what they each come up with, what colors they prefer using and creating what they find beautiful in their little minds! The kids get so focused on what they are doing, and then are so proud of themselves for what they have created. Except for London. She’s just there to eat the cookies (with monitored consumption of course).

Take photos! It’s so crazy to think that Isola was only two years old when we made our first cookies together. Watching her grow into the young lady she is becoming has been a joy… she’s also developed some impressive cookie decorating skills since that first party. I wish I had photos from that first year. Watching how the kids have changed and developed from year to year is really special and the photos from this party each year are things I really treasure.

Get in on the Action! Parents deserve to have some fun too! When the kids are done and lose interest, take some time and create your own cookies… It will make you feel like a kid again! This is the first year that our kids were old enough to really go and play on their own in the adjoining room while we were able to have some decorating fun! Something tells me 10 years from now it will just be us decorating the cookies while the kids are off spending time with each other.

 

Tied up in String! The first year we decorated cookies together, we got to the end and I realized we didn’t have anything to package the cookies and send them home in. We are more prepared now, and have a variety of different bakery boxes that our friends can package their cookies up with, like these bakery boxes!  Having ribbon to tie up the package makes it special and festive! The velvet ribbon in the photos was a vintage find, but you can purchase similar ribbon from ETSY and the chunky yarn is from Michaels!

Life is better done together! The most important thing that I am reminded of every time we see our friends, is that life is better when we do it together. Our community is our support, encouragement and cheering squad through the ups and downs of life. Investing into the kind of friends that truly know your heart and allow you to just be yourself, and push you to be the best version of yourself is worth its weight in gold.  True friendship is hard to come by and is truly the best kind of gift you can receive in this world… although good cookies with some icing and “toppers” might be a close second!

Photography: Alanna Maria Photography 

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