A First Birthday, Many Thank You’s


A handful of people have asked me questions like, “How did you know you wanted to be a mother?” or “Did you always know you wanted to have kids?” since Olive was born.   Not sure I can say how I knew, but the truth is I have always known I would be a mother.  Understandably, this is not always the case for every mama and papa out there, but for me, I knew.   This sort of lifelong “knowing” has greatly taught me about my own instincts.  Being a mother was  something I always knew I wanted to be.  Excited about a new life that Matt and I would create, and obviously excited for seeing my own child grow and wander through this world, I was also incredibly intrigued and curious about how I would change.   Olive Julia has not only given me constant, heightened and welcomed enlightenment, but she has also helped shape me into a better and more well-rounded person, and I deeply, deeply thank her for that.

Last June, we celebrated our sweet lady’s very first birthday, and it was a big “Thank you” to Olive, but also to all of our beloved friends and family who generously carried us through our first year as new parents.   I wanted her birthday to be a warm gathering of friends and family.   After all, I don’t think Olive would be the sweet and good natured baby she is without the love and support of our extended family.  This birthday was for all of us. Many people have asked me to share the details of her birthday on B&Y, and I am happy to do so.


Olive’s first birthday party theme was inspired by summer farmer’s markets.  Being born on the first day of summer, and seeing as her mom and dad love spending time at our local markets, it seemed to fit.  I wanted the atmosphere to be comfortable where folks could picnic on the lawn, mingle by the drink table, and choose veggies and fruit as if they were at a local market.


I wanted to the party to be authentic yet tasteful.  The eye candy was the farmer’s market table which I set up exactly as you might see at a traditional market.  I purchased seasonal fruits and veggies from our local market and beefed it up with a few items from the grocery store.  I used a variety of baskets including small bushels and  other similar containers for berries and the like.  Using plywood and paint from Michael’s, I painted signs for the market.  I free wrote the letters to make the signs look like believable side of the road signs.  In addition, I bought bulk canvas bags and sprayed them with a fabric paint using a tree template.  These bags served as sacks for the farmer’s market treats that guests were able to fill them to the brim as goodie bags for the party.   A chalkboard sign indicated each guest to fill a tote from the market before they left the party.  A friend helped to supply the bunting, balloons were purchased from a local party store, and I bought a few items from Kara’s Party Ideas .  We spread blankets along the lawn, each accompained by balloons, party horns, and sidewalk chalk.


Matt grilled up dogs and burgers.  I made 3 side dishes including Alice Waters Summer Vegetable Salad, a garlic potato salad (Erin, if you are reading, this is your recipe from a few years back) and a sweet and savory slaw.  For dessert, I made blueberry hand pies for all everyone.  Olive had a special pear hand pie for her “cake” to fit in with the theme, but also to avoid blueberry stains!  Another chalkboard sign indicated the menu.  The drink station included a homemade lavender lemonade and classic sodas I bought from a local, boutique candy store.  We had green river, 312 root beer, and even sarsaparilla sodas.  We made sure beer and wine were plentiful, and I also encouraged the adults to add a topper of rose or sparkling white to the lavender lemonade…that was a huge hit.  Lastly, we indulged on a snow cone machine from Amazon, and purchased Jelly Belly syrups, cones, and straws.  The snow cones were a huge success!


Considering this was mostly an adults party, my sister-in-law and I organized a relay races for all guests.  This was the highlight of the party! We started with egg and spoon, moved on to potato sack races, 3 legged race, and ended with a picnic basket relay where each team member and to empty a basket, set a place setting with plates, silverware etc, put on whatever costumes pieces were in the basket, blow a party horn and then return to my sister-in-law, Allie,  for a slip of paper that indicated how you must return to your team after repacking the basket (i.e. moonwalk, crabwalk, disco, grapevine and so on).  Prizes for the winning team were homemade cookies made by my other sister-in-law, Jenna.  She made “Olive O’s”- a cookie inspired by the beloved Oreo as well as brown butter, chocolate chip cookies.  Yum!  We also had Bags and horseshoes set up on the side of the yard.

Her birthday was a huge success despite the sweltering early summer heat.  Everyone who attended brought lots of love, smiles, and good vibes.  Miss Olive made it through the whole party without napping, Grammy and Grandpa survived a backyard full of balloons, party favors, bubbles and food, and mom and dad felt proud, accomplished, and fortunate to celebrate their first year of parenthood.  Miss Olive- we love you!  Any suggestions for this year’s theme?  Have a question about some of my DIY projects or recipes?  Put a comment below!  Before you go, check out some of our photos from Olive’s first birthday party.

Classin’ Up the Joint

409462_10151140216396331_1457091258_nI have always wanted to be one of those do-it-yourself people who knew how to take something really cheap or old and turn it into a seemingly antique masterpiece.  I have seen all of the shows and read all of the websites and it all seemed so easy but sort of annoying at the same time.  This was until I found Miss Mustard Seed.  I am gonna go ahead and call Miss Seed Marian because I have seen so many of her video tutorials, I feel like we know each other….intimately.  Does that weird you out, Marian?  Don’t fret.  This will probably be my last project…or will it?

Matt and I use his dresser from when he was seven or eight as our adult dresser.  It blows.  It’s terrible.   I do not have a before pic of it, but you all have one of these, somewhere in your home or garage.  Trust me.  There is nothing adult about it…especially since it is still just too tall for me to see the top making me feel like I am also seven or eight or mildly dysfunctional in some way.  On top of the charming (ahem) childhood dresser (in which I keep my very adult lingerie…which is just weird) I have to keep all of my girlie accoutrements strewn about on top.  I like my girlie stuff because it’s pretty and luxurious and readers,  I am a sophisticated lady.  My Aveda lotion scented with essential oil “water #6”, Caldrea’s new Sage fragrance hand lotion, french perfumes, the sweetest little bird ring holder you have ever seen, lotion bars, jewelery cleaner, vintage compacts, vintage necklaces…yeah you get it…beautiful, fancy, girlie things- with no home.  No vanity to rest their pretty bottle bottoms, no silver tray to reflect their elegant labels…. just an old kid’s dresser that probably does a better job of renting out to baseball magazines, empty grape flavored Nerds boxes, and probably a flashlight which was once used for solo shadow puppet shows on the walls but then provided light to B rated boob mags which were probably covertly read under the same blanket tent that was used to create the shadow puppets.  Balls.

I had been thinking about painting this dresser for years.  Even Matt was down, and it was the perfect candidate for a refurbishing project.   Old, wood, ready to be primed and painted.  But, primer?  Ugh.  What is that?  Do I need a tool for that?  Do I need some kind of special paint…oil, acrylic, water-based?  Is there water-based paint?  Which brush would I use, how many coats, do I need to “seal” it with something (they always talk about sealing stuff on HGTV so…).  Alas, I put it off.  Until last spring I discovered something so perfect and so seemingly simple, it must have been sent from the heavens….milk paint.  Milk paint (cue angel choir here).  Miss Mustard Seed (a professional DIY-er who I fan on Facebook),  had posted something about her new milk paint line that was soon to be distributed in stores nationwide.  This led me to her site where I learned all about milk paint.  For one, it did not require any primers or finishes.  In fact, it didn’t require a whole lot at all.  Things like size of your brush stroke or going with the grain…didn’t matter.   Special waxes and finished…nah, not here.   You simply clean off the surface of what is to be painted, mix the paint, put it on, and dry.  I could do this.  Totally.  I had reached my DIY oneness y’all!  That was until I found out that Marian’s milk paint could barely be found in Illinois.  One place carried it..somewhere far away…by appointment only… what…bleh.  Forget it. Too much work.

Well, a year went by.  Yep, it was that easy for me to turn away the challenge of seeking out the paint.  That was…until this morning.  I don’t know if  I am pregnant and doing some kind of nesting thing (another lame baby term that makes me wanna hurl…kinda like babymoon or bun in the oven) or if I laid on my couch for too many days since being on break and am restless or if I just got sick of the dresser, but this morning I decided everything was gonna change.  I once again searched for Marian’s milk paint which I was sure would be in more places in Illinois.  It wasn’t.  But I did find out that milk paint is made by other companies (sorry Marian) which are readily available in Illinois, even on Christmas Eve.  In conjunction with Marian’s AWESOME milk paint tutorials,  Matt and I set off on the quest to make this happen.  First stop: Artist and Craftsmen Supply store in Printer’s Row where they carry Old Fashioned Milk Paint and the dudes were super helpful.  The color we chose was called “slate”.  One of Marian’s tutorials mentioned using a bonding agent in the paint mix to make sure the paint stuck to the surface of porous (re: old stuff) woods if I did not want the chipped, vintage look.  She also said if I wasn’t sure what look I wanted, to go ahead and use the bonding agent and then sand the dresser later for a distressed look.  Ok, whatever.  They did not have the bonding agent, so it was decided for us.  We picked up a few other things at Home Depot- 2 inch brushes, a tarp, and furniture wax.  I only knew about the wax from Marian’s blog.  She said that if the paint did chip, we could use a putty knife after two coats to chip away the peeling pieces, making the piece look purposely- and not so purposely- antique.  The dresser then needed to be finished with a furniture wax to keep the paint from continuously chipping and maintain the purposeful chipped look.  Did you get that?   This is again another cool thing about milk paint- although it will appear sorta streaky, it looks natural- no evident brushstrokes and without the bonding agent, it looks like the color has naturally worn away with use.  Cool, by me.  Oh yeah, there are some different waxes you can use…but Marian can tell you all about that in her tutorial (link above).

Top of the dresser, all dolled up.

Top of the dresser, all dolled up.

May all other dressers be put to shame.

May all other dressers be put to shame.

Because Marian is going to tell you everything else you need to know, I will not go into an explanation or a step-by-step on a how to blah blah blah.  Nope, not my gig.  My job here is to tell you stories, mostly about food.  Which is where my cake stands come in.  You know that food came into this somehow, right?  I am a huge fan of cake stands.  I have seven of them.  Seriously.  Some I made by hot-gluing vintage plates to glass vases…okay, maybe I am more DIY than I thought, but that was for my wedding and any wedding will make you a DIY-er if you are on a budget.   In any case, if there is a way to appropriately place my desserts on a pedestal worthy of its hard work and taste…I do it.  Even if it doesn’t taste good…it makes them pretty.  So why not put my vulnerable girlie stuff that have spent so much time being subject to the nostalgia of a boyhood bedroom on a an elegant glass cake pedestal where they could be adorned and respected?  Alas, cake stands have now become pretty girlie holder stands.  And that dresser, became a real deal adult piece with character and real charm.  We classed up the joint.  And the whole project took us two hours.  Success!  Oh yeah, I also used a mini rolling pin to mix the paint.  That’s another story.



Mad respect.

Mad respect.

So readers, projects like these…possible.  Marian will guide you.  And if you are into the whole shabby chic thing- Marian and milk paint are really great places to start-  I didn’t even break a sweat.  Matt did…he did all the vacuuming and moving heavy stuff.  But hey, you know….