Random Neural Firings

the inner workings of a restless creative brain

4th Birthday – Gymnastics Party (Wordless Wednesday)


gymnastics party ideas for a boy

As I mentioned before, it was NOT easy to find gymnastics-themed ideas for a boy. Our son loves his gymnastics class and wanted to have his party there. We did a dual party with a girlfriend of his who practically shares a birthday. We only had 15 minutes to set up the party room so I needed decorations with maximum impact, but that could be set up quickly.

Previously, I shared with you pics of what we ordered for decorations and favors. I thought you might like to see how it all turned out! The cake was made by Sweets to the Sweet here in Atlanta. How frickin’ cute is this cake???

gymnastics party cake

Sharing a GOLD MEDAL birthday kiss:


Looking for more great photos? Grab a cup of tea or coffee and check out these sites that host more Wordless Wednesday entries: SevenClownCircus5MinutesforMom, and WordlessWednesday.

Make a Marshmallow Wreath!


marshmallow wreath with cranberries

I don’t know what it is with me and wreaths but I started making them last year (see here, here and here) and when I saw this marshmallow wreath on Pinterest, I couldn’t resist making my own. (Note on the photos: these are all from my phone so no groovy blurry background, no awesome close-ups, just rough and raw pics!) It might have something to do with my need for projects I can start and actually finish and all my wreaths have been pretty quick. This one took about an hour – less time than it would take me to wash and blow my hair dry straight, so there’s that.

supplies for marshmallow wreath


  • Styrofoam wreath form (I got a big one and a small one for my son to make his own)
  • 3 bags of big marshmallows
  • 1 bag of miniature marshmallows
  • 1 bag of cranberries
  • 1 bag of gummy bears (for my son’s wreath)
  • Hundreds of toothpicks
  • Damp rag – marshmallows get sticky

I found it easier to stick the toothpick in the big marshmallows first, then jab them into the wreath form.

But with the smaller marshmallows and the cranberries, it is MUCH easier to stick the toothpicks in the wreath first, then plop the little accents on. My 4 year old had fun finding the toothpicks I’d stuck in random places and thread a baby marshmallow on.


Note: toothpicks break. They also hurt your thumb when you jab ’em in, so I used a rag over my finger to press them in. Some of the marshmallows have fallen off the bottom of my wreath (well, two and one cranberry) so I might have to patch it from time to time. I have read from many crafters that they KEEP their marshmallow wreaths from year to year and somehow, amazingly, they do not get bugs and still look great.

marshmallow wreath

I don’t believe them for a minute. This will be going in the trash. It just looks like a giant lure for ants to me.


posted under Decorating, DIY | 1 Comment »

Gymnastics Party for a Boy – Good Luck with That


My son takes a gymnastics class once a week – this is a “real” gymnastics class with a balance beam, rings, uneven bars, floor work, etc. It’s hilarious to watch these little 3 year olds bop around. We had him in a sports class last year which he did not like because he said the other kids were faster. Being the uber-competitive person I am, I told him that he needed to practice and he would get faster. Being the more astute person that she is, our nanny pointed out that he was the youngest and shortest, so you know, maybe that had something to do with it. Wow, I missed that one.

Anyhow, I digress. His birthday is coming up and I was hunting around for a theme. I figured race cars because he’s way into them and there are lots of cute (i.e. not Disney) race car ideas out there. But then I thought about how nice it would be to have his party somewhere that ISN’T MY HOUSE this year and he LOVES gymnastics, so we’re having his party there. The coaches take the kids through a whole circuit. I think it’ll be fun.

But decorating? A nightmare. Just like walking into a kid’s clothing store where 75% of it is for girls and we have one tiny corner of red and navy BORING clothes in the back – ALMOST ALL the gymnastics party stuff I found was for girls. Ugh. You can see some of the stuff I did find on this Pinterest board. (How did I plan parties before Pinterest? And where were you when we were building the house?)

So I really liked this cute cartwheel silhouette invitation but didn’t want to commit to a whole retro theme. Mostly because anything else I might buy (like favors) was likely to be red, white and blue. I decided to make my own invitation using Publisher. Here’s what I came up with:

And then I uploaded it onto Pingg, which is like Evite only you can upload your own design. I also printed it out (for the two people whose email addresses I dont’ have) and made some little “stamps” to put on the outside of the envelope. I used PicMonkey for that. I just uploaded two clip art images into a collage, saved it, uploaded it again as a single image and applied a ragged border to look like a stamp.

For favors, I ordered these sport bottles and I customized them with the “Jump Bounce Flip Play” words I used on the invitation. I also ordered these “gold” medals and will put those around the bottles. No favor bags or boxes needed this year!


For decorations, I found this personalized repositionable wall decal. Yeah, that’s a girl in the middle, but it’ll have to do. We only have 15 minutes to set up at the gym, so I’m hoping I can throw this up behind the cake and tie a few balloons to some chairs and voila! It’s a party – not quite Pinterest-worthy but we’ll see!

And for the cake? I found this idea and send it to Sweets for the Sweet; she made his awesome airplane cake last year.

She’s going to do something like this (but double layer) in primary colors for this year. And to make this even more fun, one of our good friend’s daughter is just 12 days older than our son. They hadn’t gotten around to figuring out what to do with her birthday, so we’re going to join forces. It’ll be one big gymnastics bash – and I’ll have an extra pair of arms to rush everything in and set it up!

I’ll post pics of how it all turns out.

Sweetheart Candy Wreath


I’ve gone Valentine’s Day mad. I’ve decided that it’s my favorite holiday (it’s all about LOVE, after all!) and I’m decorating the house like it’s a pink Christmas. So far, I’ve made the yarn wreath and this sweetheart wreath. I have a few other ideas up my (pink) sleeves so keep an eye out on the blog or Facebook page. If you want to get an idea what I’m up to, follow my DIY/craft board on Pinterest.

This is another embarrassingly easy craft. We got a tiny styrofoam wreath form at Michael’s and spray painted it red. I poured some glue onto a paper plate and let my 3 year old glue Sweetheart candy all over the front. While he napped, I glued them around the sides, which proved to be a bit tricky (some of them slid off). If you’re patient and don’t mind holding the slippery ones a few seconds, this will work fine. If you want them to stick the first time, use your glue gun.

That’s it! Tie a little ribbon and hang.

This post is part of the Works for Me Wednesday series. For more great tips, check out WeAreThatFamily.



I Did It Again


I liked the turquoise yarn wreath so much that I decided to make a pink one for Valentine’s Day. Same as before, only this time I used a green Styrofoam form; it wasn’t as messy as the one I used before which flaked off everywhere. Also the one I used before was straight around the outer edge; this one was round which made for a tighter yarn finish. I spray painted it pink first just in case there was some wreath showing after I wrapped it. And this time, I wrapped the yarn around TWICE which also gave it a more finished look. I found these ADORABLE felt flowers on Etsy – the petals are heart shapes – and glued them on with hot glue. I debated wrapping the whole thing with ribbon but texted my friend, Ally, who said she preferred it plain. I used six flowers and doubled them up.

I’m kind of loving it!








Recycle Your Baby’s Favorite Shirts into Awesome Wall Art




Y’all know about my Zutano obsession (if not, read here, here and here). As Hunter outgrew these cute clothes, I gave many beloved Zutano outfits to friends but held back a few that I just couldn’t part with for sentimental reasons. I have heard of some people turning their children’s clothing into a quilt but I can’t sew. I can, however, use a staple gun. I went and bought some small canvases at an art supply store, cut up my son’s shirts and pulled them around the back of the canvas and stapled them in place. And voila! Instant wall art.


  • 5″x5″ canvases (on sale for around $2.50/ea) – if your shirts are really small, you might need 4×4″ frames
  • staple gun with 1/4″ staples
  • beloved/favorite shirts
  • You could also do this with leggings/pants/dresses. I contemplated using a variety of shapes and sizes of canvases, which I think would be cute, too.

Cut out the cutest part of the pattern of the shirt. Hold it on the front of the canvas while you pull one side to the back. Staple in place. Move to the OPPOSITE side of the canvas and pull the fabric down. Take a look and make sure you have the fabric pattern situated the way you want (stripes might be crooked so now’s your chance to straighten them out). Staple. Then do the other sides, folding the corners back like you’re wrapping a present. There’s no great way to do the corners. I stapled and cut away some of the excess fabric so the canvases would hang flat.

Simple DIY Wall Art Using Outgrown Shirts     



It took about an hour to do six shirts. I love looking at my little memory wall. Each outfit reminds me of those early (hazy) days of parenthood.

This is part of the Works for Me Wednesday series, hosted by We Are THAT Family. Great tips there!


I’m Not Crafty but I Made This Wreath! (Works for Me Wednesday)


Sooo . . . I saw these beautiful yarn wreaths on Etsy. Loved the vibrant colors and simple, modern aesthetic. Figured, what the heck, I’ll bet I can make that! And you know what? Turns out I can!

I didn’t take pictures in progress but it’s really simple. You need:

  • Styrofoam wreath core (messy)
  • One skein of yarn (you’ll have lots left so get a small one)
  • Hot glue
  • A silk flower – or make your own flower with paper or felt

That’s it. Pop your butt on the couch and watch “The Sing-Off” or something that doesn’t require you to look up constantly. Start wrapping the wreath with the yarn. Took me about 2 hours total and the yarn got a little . . . sideways but I think it looks fine. When you’re finished, glue the end in the back. Then take your flower – if you’re using a fake one like I did, just cut it off so there’s only about an inch of stem, jam it in the wreath, pull it back out, put some hot glue in the hole, then stick the flower back in.

That’s it. I like the results so much I might try other color combos. I’m feeling the need for pink right now . . .

This post is part of the Works for Me Wednesday series. For more great tips, check out WeAreThatFamily.

What About a Wall-E Party?


My son won’t turn 3 till November but I’m already starting to come up with ideas for his birthday. Originally, I thought we’d go with an airplane theme because he’s been sort of into them (his PopPop has a plane and is doing all he can to encourage Hunter’s fascination). We live near a small, private airport that has a great playground and “hangar” with tables for parties. I thought this could be a fun place for a 3-year old party (although I dread the thought of carting food and decorations any further than my kitchen).

That was my thinking until my son started wanting to watch “Wall-E” all the time. Literally, first thing in the morning, he wants to watch and begs for it all day long (even watching clips on the iPad when we let him).

So maybe I’ll go with a Wall-E theme instead (assuming he’s still into Wall-E in a few months). But will try to resist all the official Wall-E party supplies and do our own thing. How about some of these ideas:

  • Take some of his old shoes, fill with dirt, plant an herb – line ’em up as a centerpiece
  • Mini Rubiks cubes for party favors
  • A Coleman cooler filled with “treasures” for the kids to take home
  • Sporks as the lone utensil
  • Boiled eggs decorated to look like Eve  
  • Sandwiches cut out to look like Wall-E , like these from Anna The Red’s blog  
  • Boxes decorated like trash, stacked up and strewn about
  • Will try and find someone to make a 3-dimensional Wall-E cake (like the 3-D bus cake I had last year)    

So there you have it! My early, early, EARLY stage planning. Poor kid’s room still isn’t decorated (and we’ve lived in this house a year now so really, I have no excuse) but I’m planning his birthday party.

The Inspiration Behind the Exterior Paint Color


Building a house was fun. Overwhelming, at times, but the end result is a house that is uniquely ours, filled with small details and sentimental touches. Most design decisions were guided by practicality and functionality, with a modern/worldly aesthetic. I was terrified of making the wrong tile, counter, cabinet and flooring choices. I knew we wanted a clean, modern look and that would provide good bones to decorate around. But I also wanted pattern and texture and color. In the end, we kept most of the choices on the permanent (or expensive to change) items clean and simple. As we decorate the rooms, we’re throwing in Persian carpets, artwork, bright pillows and curtains that are rarely neutral.

But back to the beginning. The exterior of the house is Craftsman-inspired but we did not go full-out Craftsman inside. Like I said, we like more modern touches. We needed to come up with an exterior paint color. Craftsman lends itself to a wide variety of options. We’ve seen Craftsman homes in various shades of green, red, brown and blue. We really liked gray but felt gray might be too Colonial or cold. We loved yellow for its cheerfulness and “surprise” factor, but were advised that yellow can look creamy/dirty in different light.  We drove around for hours looking at homes to see if there was a color scheme we loved.

On one such trip, we noticed that we really liked the colors of the shirt my son had on. And so was born our exterior color scheme. Just like that. We matched the colors of this shirt:

The inspiration for our exterior paint color

And voila! Ended up with this. It’s a bit brighter blue than we thought it would be (we were going for a more blue-gray) but we like it.

Exterior paint colors: blue, brown

The exterior blue is Sherwin Williams 6250 Granite Peak. Wood trim is Sherwin Williams 6149 Relaxed Khaki. Window sashes and garage door are SW 7027 Well-Bred Brown. The roof shingles are Timberline Weathered Wood.

exterior paint choices house blue and brown

Well That Was a Weird Call


My son has the Baby Cache Manhattan crib and dresser from  BabiesRUs. One of the reasons my super practical husband liked the crib so much is that it can be converted into a toddler bed, and later, to a double bed. I always had my suspicions that this is one of those “sounds like a great idea at the time” sort of things, but that nobody ever really does it. I remembered my nephew getting a race car bed as his toddler bed and I sort of figured part of the experience of transitioning to a big boy bed was letting the kid pick his or her own (tacky, cheap) bed.

But my son seems to like his crib so I went to Babies R Us and ordered the toddler conversion kit in early October. I was told it takes 10-12 weeks because it is a special order.

Anybody want to do the math and tell me how many weeks it’s been? 16 maybe? So I just called and spoke with a lovely woman at my local Babies R Us who explained to me that Baby Cache got hit by a lot of orders all at once and got backed up. But I was one of the lucky ones she said because my order status is showing as “approved” and my conversion kit is at their distribution center. How long until it might be delivered from their distribution center, I innocently asked? Very nice lady has no idea. A week? A month? Two months??? Yes, yes and yes.

UPDATE: the very nice lady just called me back, said she did some more digging, and thinks my rails should be sent from the distribution center to the store next week. (She really is very nice.)

My advice? Get the crib you love and if you think you’re going to convert it some day to a toddler bed, GO AHEAD AND ORDER THE CONVERSION KIT NOW. File this under Things I Wish I’d Known. Right next to: Did you know you have to register your 2-year old for next year’s preschool NOW?

The One in Which I Get Organized (ha!)


Since we moved into the house last summer, we have a lot of stuff unpacked, but not organized. We were obsessed with not having any cardboard boxes lying about so we emptied every box and put things away but not necessarily with any order or organization. We have slowly been tackling our closets and drawers.

So far, we have organized our pantry – and in so doing emptied an entire shelf that we can now use for all the piles that accumulate on the breakfast table or kitchen island. This includes my work pile; my favorite place to work from home is here in the kitchen.

After the pantry, we tackled the junk drawer. It looks so nice now! Then, I went to work on the built-ins in the great room. I moved and re-arranged and organized enough that we could put some of our son’s toys away, further de-cluttering that room. (The plan is to rotate toys in and out.)

We’ve managed to do about one project like this a week. I figure if we keep this up, we might have the house fairly organized by spring, which would be lovely!

Today’s project is going to be digital. After I publish this post, I’m going to plug in my external hard drive and back everything up – especially the photos and videos. And later today, I have my twice-a-year computer maintenance visit. If you’re in Atlanta and need a tech person to keep your machines and printers running, give Adam a shout at Dunwoody PC. He’s the best nerd out there – and he’s funny to boot.

I mention the digital organization because I know too many people who lose their data when their machines crap out on them. We all know this and we all suck at keeping up with it. So consider this a nudge!

Second Birthday Right Around the Corner



My son is obsessed with buses and trucks. He likes cars, trains and airplanes, but he LOVES trucks and buses. So it seems pretty obvious what theme we should have for his second birthday party. I’m thinking of going with school buses primarily but not sure I want a whole bright yellow party. Still working up ideas but here are some of our initial thoughts.

My husband’s going to make a sign similar to this but perhaps a bus stop or stop sign:

I’m going to buy some of the bus fabric on the right and use it in the invitations somehow. I haven’t figured out how yet:

I bought these giant school bus cookie cutters and will make sugar cookies as favors. Note to Ruthie: I haven’t iced a sugar cookie since I was, like, 12. Need your tips STAT! I also bought cookie cutters shaped like a train, an airplane, and a truck. These cookie cutters are HUGE. Maybe I’ll make sandwiches and cut them out in vehicle shapes?

Maybe these cute little favor tags:

I’d like to find a crossing guard uniform for Kirby to wear. She’ll kill me but she’ll probably do it. Kirby is my best friend’s 21-year old daughter who works all my parties. She’s the best hostess/server/set-up/tear-down person ever. Plus, she is very, very dear to me. Here she is at my son’s first birthday party:


I bought this very nice school bus chalk board decal that I’ll post somewhere welcoming everyone to the party. (Bonus: I got it half off on one of those online sample sites.)

school bus decal

So these are a few ideas we’ve come up with. If you have some more, please share them in the comments. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

The Travertine Two-Step


It seems that the trend these days is to go with travertine in showers. It’s a natural stone but it has to be sealed and re-sealed and you can’t clean it with bleach or any harsh chemicals. So my husband and I don’t get it. All the houses we looked at before we decided to build advertised “travertine master showers” like that was a big selling point. What my engineering husband hears is “maintenance issue.”

We also just got bored with travertine. Everywhere we went, we saw beige/taupe travertine “caves” like this:

So we’re rebelling against travertine a bit.

We like the look of marble, but marble chips, dings, scratches, and STAINS. I asked my decorator why it’s all over the decorating magazines and she said people love the look but that yes, it is hard to keep looking nice. With a young boy and me — a clumsy momma — we’re going to stay away from marble.

There is a quartz that looks like marble if you want a marble-looking countertop without marble maintenance. And for floors, there is a porcelain that you would swear is Carrera marble from a distance. And porcelain is virtually maintenance-free.

So that’s the tile lesson. Later, I’m going to show you what we’re thinking of doing. I’m trying to get some images and pics together and frankly, find my brain.

House Update: Picking Granite and Tile


The house is framed up and looking like a real house! Last week we looked at granite for the counter tops and tile for floors, showers and backsplashes. It was fun but a bit much to process. I still don’t get how to pick stuff out in such a silo. I need an idea of the whole room – then I can pick the finishes.  In fact, the kitchen, which is the only room I’ve thought through, was easy and quick. We’re planning to have white kitchen cabinets with black counters and a black island with a white counter. White subway tiles on the wall. So at the granite store (shop, factory, warehouse – whatever you call this place), I just needed to look at the black granite in our price range. And since we’d ruled out marble because it stains and chips, but we wanted something that looked sort of marble-like, we just looked at the white granite that had veins and striations. Easy. And the subway tile? The sales person showed me two different white ones and said she had another one she could pull out that was a few dollars more per square foot. Huh? I said, no thanks, I can manage just fine with my choices here. Plain white subway tile. Really.

So we were cooking along till we got to the part where the decorator told us we had to pick out granite and tile for ALL THE OTHER BATHROOMS. That’s three more full baths plus a powder room. Then it was just a free-for-all. It all looks good. But I have no context – no idea to build this all on. We went ahead and picked some stuff but have a few weeks to change our minds so I will be frantically looking at pictures all weekend to get ideas.

But hey, that’s kind of fun! I’m certainly not complaining.

Yesterday, Chris met the electrician and figured out stuff like which rooms to pre-wire for speakers. I totally don’t get that. Today, I asked the builder, “why do we need speakers in our master bedroom ceiling?” I mean, like, where is the radio dial to control that sound? And you know where it is, don’t you? In the basic system, it would be DOWNSTAIRS. Why would I run downstairs to turn on music? Why wouldn’t I just stick my iPod in a desktop speaker system? Exactly. Our builder said we don’t need speakers in our master bedroom and that he never uses his. Maybe just the dining room and porch so if we have company over, we can have the same music playing throughout the main entertaining areas. OK, so we have that solved.

Back to the granite and tile!

Here are some pics from my camera phone if you’re interested in what we selected:

The white granite for the kitchen island

island granite

Possible master bath tile

master bath tile

Friday Random Ramblings – the Feverish Birthday Edition


Oy. The little guy had a fever of 103 for several days this week with all the attendant fussiness one would expect. I think that’s the highest his fever has ever been, so of course, being the new mom that I am, I scooped him up and took him to the doc. Actually, with his history of bladder infection (he’s only had one but the docs consider that a history), we have to have him checked every time he has a fever. Fever with no other symptoms could be another UTI. And UTIs at his age can damage the kidneys.

So off to the doc we went. Do you know how they collect a urine sample from a baby boy? (If you’re a guy reading this, you might want to look away.) A catheter. Up the penis. Yup.

He’s had this done — oh I dunno — five or six times now but each time seems worse than the last. I actually cried with him this time. It’s just awful.

Urine was clean so file this fever under the 1,000 mystery viruses that babies get.

He seems to be cutting some pretty painful teeth again, causing more fussiness and lots of night wakings. And Suzy (our wonderful nanny) has been on vacation. She has a friend who fills in for her but our son still has a bit of stranger anxiety so it’s been a challenging week.

Still, I managed to squeeze in several meetings with clients and prospective clients. Lots of exciting things going on with my business. 2010 is off to a great start.

Speaking of great starts, this is always a good time of year for sales. I just got these green linen sheer curtain panels, 108″ long, for $34.95 a piece at Crate and Barrel. LOVE them! They will look fabulous in the great room of the new house.

And the end of January is always a busy time of year for us. My birthday is Sunday; my husband’s is next week. My sister, and an aunt and uncle, all had birthdays yesterday. My husband’s sister has a birthday next week. I’ve been scouring the web for good deals and gift ideas. Christopher’s sister loves to bake and I saw these nifty measuring cups that allow you to pour ingredients into your stand mixer without spilling them everywhere. I’m thinking I need to get these for myself! I’ll let you know if she likes them and how they work out.

There is a reason I call this blog Random Neural Firings. I am all over the map today, aren’t I? Hope you’re all having a great Friday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY RELATIVES!!!

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