In pursuit of a simple, fabulous, imperfect life at home.

A Chili Themed Birthday Party

On the weekend we held our 4th annual Chilifest to celebrate my husbands birthday.  Here is a peak into some of our festivities!

Nothing says "The Party's Here" like tissue paper in the mailbox! (Note to self: take tissue paper out of mailbox.  Before the mail lady comes.)

Our guests were welcomed by a chalkboard sign made out of a second hand mirror.  I just removed the mirror from it's frame and covered the wood backing with self-adhesive chalkboard paper.  I set out a bucket of noisemakers and made sunscreen and bug spray available to any guests who may have forgot theirs at home.

We served a nacho buffet as an appetizer.   In place of plates we used tin foil take out trays stacked with colorful serviettes.

I kept bugs out of the drinks by cutting a square of mesh to fit over each pitcher and weighted the corners down with clothespins.

There were lawn games....

...and a homemade pinata.  See here for my tutorial on how to make your own pinata.

 Some of the guests brought Crockpots of chili to compete.  We placed each Crockpot on the buffet with a glass jar in front.  Each guest was given a little ticket and instructed to place the ticket in the jar beside their favorite chili to vote for a winner.  The winner received an engraved ladle.

We finished the evening with three different types of cupcakes: chocolate, vanilla and Pistachio.

Thanks for stopping by The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please leave a comment below to say "hi"!

Make Your Own Pinata

Use some things you already have around the house and some crepe paper streamers to make your own pinata for you child's' birthday. (or in my case, for a full grown man's birthday party!)

And the best part?  There is no paper mâché involved!  No waiting for days while layers of soggy tissue paper try to dry in humid summer weather.

In fact, you can whip one of these up in an evening!

You will need:
  • A stiff cardboard box
  • some thinner cardboard, such as a cereal box
  • two empty toilet paper rolls
  • tape and scissors
  • crepe paper streamers and a sheet or two of tissue paper
  • paper and a marker for eyes or other details
  • a zip tie, piece of wire or length of sturdy string (to create a loop for hanging!)

Start by cutting a donkey shape out of your stiff cardboard box. Cut it out twice so that you have two pieces that are the same. This looks more like a dog than a donkey. Maybe he needs a longer neck...

 There we go, that's better!  
(I know he still looks kinda doggy-like...bear with me, the ears will make him look more like a donkey!)

Cut  4 inch wide strips of  cereal box. Tape them to your two donkey pieces to make him 3-D.
I started with clear craft tape and pretty quickly switched to tuck tape.  If you don't have tuck tape, that's okay. Duct tape will work too.

Poke your wire, rope or zip tie through his back.  This will be the loop from which you hang him up.

Leave a flap of cardboard not taped down so that you can add the candy later.

Make the donkey's ears by cutting a slit in a toilet paper roll...

...and then squishing the roll closed and taping it, like this.

Repeat with the other toilet paper roll.

Tape the ears to your donkey's head, and you have a donkey all set to be covered in crepe streamers!

The important thing to remember when building your pinata is that you want a child to be able to break it, so don't go crazy with the tape!

Next, cover the bottom of the donkey's feet with tissue paper. Just fold the paper up over his ankles like a present and tape it in place.

Then make some ruffles by folding crepe streamers together and cutting little slits in it. 

Unfold the streamers and start taping it to your donkey.

Make sure to cover the underbelly too.

Half way done...

Candy!  Stuff the pinata with candy!  

Be smarter than me and don`t use chocolate if you intend to hang the pinata in the hot sun hours before the party begins.  Lesson Learned.

Cover the back before completing the sides.

Draw some eyes on paper and tape them on.  bundle together some pieces of streamer to make a tail.


And the final step?  Let some of your favorite people beat the pulp out of it with a plastic stick!

If you do make your own pinata I would love to hear about how it turns out!

5 Sanity Savers for Stressed Out Moms

As a mother, I want to delight in my children.  I want them to look back on their childhoods and remember me as a cheerful, gracious and gentle woman.  But some days I am certain they are going to remember me as an angry, impatient dictator.

Sometimes I'm a grumpy mommy.  And a grumpy wife.  And not even that nice to the telemarketers.

But there are some things we can do to help relieve that stress, keep us focused on the things that truly matter, and remind us that our children are a blessing, not an inconvenience.

I am definitely still learning and growing in this area of stress, but  here are some tips that help to keep me from wanting to stab a number two pencil into my eye...

1. Spend time with God every day.   I know it's hard.  I know what it's like to be up at night with an infant and to want to sleep every minute you can before the older kids wake up and demand breakfast.  I know what it's like to tell myself I'll spend time with God later and then never actually do it. I know what it's like to get to the end of a day of tantrums and homeschool and dishes and laundry and physically not be able to keep my eye's open long enough to read a verse or two of scripture.  But let me ask you (and myself) this:  Is there any other relationship in your life that is of value to you in which you would ever consider saying "I'd rather do dishes than speak to you?  I'd rather get ten more minutes of sleep than hear what you have to say to me?"  I didn't think so.  Lets make time with God a priority.  And while you're at it, let go of any guilt you have for not doing so yesterday or the day before that,  because we have a God who beckons us to come to him when we are weary and heavy burdened and promises us His rest.

2. Read something every day that has nothing to do with children or housework or homeschooling or whatever you do during the day.  Read something you enjoy reading.  Cookbooks count if you find them really inspiring. And if possible read it on paper, not on a computer screen.

3. Get clean everyday.  Even if your not going anywhere.  And brush your hair before you throw it in it's ponytail.  Moms and pre-teen boys are pretty much the only people on the planet who need to be told to wash and groom themselves.  A bath or shower can be the difference between feeling human and feeling like dirt.

4. Do something creative every day.  It doesn't have to be anything monumental. You could just arrange a few items on your kitchen window sill in a way that appeals to you or put a pretty braided crust on that pie your baking.  And don't tell me you aren't creative. You were made in the image of the Creator, so create something today!

5.  Always go to bed with a tidy kitchen.  Not spotless, just tidy.  Starting your day with a tidy kitchen is like starting each day with a clean slate. Trying to make coffee and breakfast and today's to-do list with yesterdays dishes still on the counter is just a grumpy mama waiting to happen.

What did I miss? What helps you to keep calm on stressful days?

Tutorial: Quick and Easy throw pillows from a bedsheet

Before I start, I just want to say: this is not a sewing tutorial.  We are going to sew, but this is not a sewing tutorial.  I don't do those.

Sewing tutorials are best left to people who measure, and press and serge and know what all those doo-hickeys that came with their sewing machine are for.

We aren't going to do any measuring. Or pinning.  Or serging.

This is a how to make throw pillows before the two year old wakes up from his nap tutorial.

You will need:
  • A bed sheet  (I got mine from a second hand store for 5 bucks)
  • matching thread
  • some throw pillow inserts
  • scissors and pins
  • a ruler and a pencil (optional)
  • one sleeping toddler, enough grapes and stickers to amuse older children for an hour, and two beautiful infants happily dozing and sucking away on their pacifiers. (optional, obviously!)

We're going to be giving the pillows these easy-peasy overlapping backs.

AND we're going to do it without having to make any hems by using the top and bottom of the bed sheet!

Cutting your Pieces 

Lay the sheet right side up on your table or the floor.  Fold the top of the sheet in to the middle, and then fold the bottom of the sheet in to overlap the top by a few inches.  Here's a picture with the corner folded back to show you what I mean.

Lay your pillow on top of the folded bed sheet. Like this:

Now cut around the pillow, leaving an extra inch or so.  Don't worry if you discover you can't cut straight, maybe you'll have better luck sewing straight.

Ta-da!  Now you have the makings of one basic pillow.

If you want a plain throw pillow, you could just pin and sew around the outside edge of these pieces of sheet just the way they are, turn it right side out and your done!  But if you want ruffles (and of course you want ruffles!) keep reading.

Easy Ruffles 101

Start by cutting long strips from the remaining sheet fabric.  I folded mine so that I could cut the whole length at once.

I used a ruler to draw a straight line, but i didn't bother measuring anything.  Not all my strips are the same width, and that's okay.

On your sewing machine, turn your stitch length to it's highest setting, and turn your tension to it's highest setting and then sew a straight line down the center of your long strips.  While you sew, hold the thread a little to create more tension.

The strips will ruffle up before your eyes, like magic!  Make sure to finish your strip by going backwards and forwards again on the sewing machine so that it doesn't all unravel.

Once you've tried this and seen how awesomely easy it is you are going to want to put ruffles on everything. Pillows. Your duvet. Your curtains and t-shirts. The cat.

(just kidding. No cats were harmed in the making of this tutorial!)

Constructing the Pillow
Once you have your ruffles, pin them in your desired pattern to the good side of the front piece for your pillow cover.  This is the piece that was on the bottom when you cut around your pillow.

Sew the ruffles in place.  Don't forget to change your stitch length and tension back to a normal setting first!

Then lay your pillow front on the table with the ruffle side up and lay your back pieces on top, good side down. Pin your pieces together and sew around the outside.

Now turn your pillow cover right side out and put your pillow insert in.  Voila!  Throw pillows in less time than it takes a three year old to get bored of a sheet of letter stickers!

Thanks for stopping by!  Please leave a comment and say "hi!"

A Nautitical Inspired Lampshade

I started with a hand-me-down lampshade that I really liked the shape of.

Starting at the bottom, I hot glued the rope to the shade. I ended up using just over 100 feet of 1/4 inch sisal rope.  The lampshade was on my kitchen counter for about a week while I found little moments to work on it.


Then I hot glued bead trim to the inside of the lampshade.   (If you look closely you can see one of the twins sleeping in the background!)

The finished result is exactly what I hoped it would be...a little bit beachy, a little bit glamorous and an easy thrifty project to bring texture and interest to my living room .

Thanks for stopping by The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  I would be thrilled if you will take a moment to "like" me on Facebook!

Fun Lunches

Why not create something a little extra special for your preschoolers lunch today? 

Use whatever you have on hand: bread, cheese, veggies, deli meat and even leftovers to craft a fun lunch in the shape of a face, a house or anything that will delight your little eater.

My children decided to name the little face on their plates.  My oldest named him "Super Awesome Man" and struck a super hero pose when she announced it. My three year old named hers "Daddy".  (FYI: Daddy doesn't look anything like that.)

If you want some fun food inspiration that is far more impressive than my silly macaroni-haired Super Awesome Daddy Man, browse some of these great sites:

Little Nummies

Meet the Dubiens
And hey, these creations might even help to get picky eaters up to the table long enough to actually ingest some food.

Do you do anything special to make lunch time fun?
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