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Dual Birthday Party: Surf Shack and Underwater Adventure

A coral reef underwater adventure and surf shack birthday party for your viewing pleasure today.

Surf Shack Birthday Party

I am so excited to share this party with you! It was definitely an act of love since it was about 4 weeks after having my third baby. We did a lot of the work beforehand, but we were also working up to the last minute!

My two oldest boys birthdays are two days apart. This year we decided to do a joint birthday party because I was having our youngest son a month before. I wanted to have two distinct parties in one, so I chose a “Surf Shack” theme for my younger son and an “Underwater Adventure” for my older son- meshing the beach and the ocean.

Underwater Adventure I originally saw this idea here and thought it would be a great way to welcome guests to the party so my husband built a custom easel and did the chalk work for it.

Surf's Up in the 505

Taking advantage of their summer birthdays, we rented a spray park for the event and had about 40 minutes for set up. With a team of great friends and family, we were able to pull it off just as guests were arriving. The best part of the event? Built in activity! Kids came ready to cool down and play in the water.

Spray Park
Photograph courtesy of Abigail Garcia

I wanted the seating area to feel like guests were under the sea, so we created paper lantern fish, jellys and sharks and hung them from the umbrellas as well as from the canopy of the custom coral reef dessert table. (Find  more ideas on my boys birthday Pinterest board and here is the more refined one).

Sea Creatures

I love serving meals at birthday parties, but because of the time that the spray park was available for private parties, it didn’t make sense. Instead we opted for yummy snacks. Mason’s Surf Shack served snacks of veggie cups with ranch or hummus, Gold Fish, Sun Chips (fish and chips), and fresh fruit. I wanted to keep it light and fresh since we had so many yummy desserts to devour!

Surf Shack Custom Surfboard

Surf Shack Snack Table Watermelon Fresh Fruit Goldfish Crackers Veggie Cups with ranch and hummus

The sign we made for the back of the canopy was inspired by these Pottery Barn Kids signs. My awesomely talented mother-in-law drew the shark and my equally awesome husband painted it and cut out the shape. As for the surf boards, my insanely talented friend painted them for me. God bless her. (For tutorials on how to make a canopy or surf boards, check my Pinterest board.)

Pottery Barn Kids Inspired Surf Shack Sign

For Reef-freshments we served Fresh Squeezed Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade and water. Since lemonade is my boys favorite refreshment, my mom squeezed all of the lemons the day before and made the rest from scratch. Water was a no brainer since it is always refreshing in NM heat. It was a good thing we packed extra water too because it was one of the hottest days on record!

Reef freshments

My husband built the canopy stand and my mother-in-law sewed the canopy.

Reef-freshments Sign

My husband painted this super cute sign. I had seen someone else use “Reef-fills” as a little play on words for their drink station and loved it so much that I decided to do my own variation with “Reef-freshments”.

Since we were at the spray park, all of the dishes/serveware had to be acrylic/plastic. I found this amazing drink dispenser and drink stand at Pottery Barn that worked perfectly for a beach party! I bought super cute plastic milk bottles from Kara’s Party Ideas for the drinks and Shop Sweet Lulu had these straws that were perfect.

Reef-freshmentsPlastic Milk Bottles- Perfect for a spray park birthday party!

For the dessert table I KNEW I wanted something different. I have had an idea in my mind for a few years of creating a coral reef table, but couldn’t get my husband to commit to making it (it had to be him. I dream it, he builds it). This year he finally agreed to do it and figured out how to make it. Below is the inspiration picture and what we actually came up with.

Coral Reef Table

I LOVED it. I mean WOW. Did he come through or what?! I am so stinking proud of this table and my hubs.

Coral Reef Dessert Table: Underwater Adventure

Asa’s Underwater Adventure boasted a shark cake with a treasure beach ball, turtle cake, octopus cupcakes (with a surprise inside!), starfish rice crispy treats, under the sea creature sugar cookies, coral reef popcorn and homemade ice cream.

Shark Cake with candy filled beach ball
Cake by the fabulous Kim Garcia
Shark Cake by Kim Garcia
Turtle Cake by Kim Garcia on Parties and Potty Training
Turtle Cake by Kim Garcia
Under the Sea Cupcakes
Sugar Cookie Sea Creatures
Cookies made by a sweet friend

Popcorn in paper cones acts as faux coral on a coral reef tableStarfish Rice Crispy Treats

I found these super cute ice cream cups at The Tomkat Studio here. We also used the alphabet stamps on the wooden spoons to complete the look. Homemade Ice Cream

When working with Kim, our cake lady, I knew that I wanted to use The Pastry Pedestal for something different and unique. We decided to create an octopus whose tentacles rested on the different cupcakes. It looked amazing, but alas- the heat won and we placed the cupcakes on the coral reef so they wouldn’t melt all over.

Octopus on The Pastry Pedestal
Octopus Pastry Pedestal
Octopus Cupcake Octopus cupcakesLast year we had a Whacky Cake (originally inspired by The Meringue Bake Shop) included with the boys birthday cakes. This year my son requested another one so Kim created the beach ball next to the shark for my oldest and the octopus head for my younger. In the pictures you can see they were filled with candy.

Whacky Cake Octopus Octopus Candy CakeBeach Ball CakeBeach Ball Cake FIlled with Candy

Since it was my oldest sons golden birthday, we had a custom octopus piñata made. It was HUGE! The kids had so much fun trying to break it open. My husband ended up having to take a turn with the bat to release the candy.

Octopus PiñataMy mom found these shirts at Carter’s. They originally had “18” on them, but my mother-in-law adapted them to match the boys ages. We had them change for the breaking of the piñata.

Birthday Shirts adapted for agesFor favors we did bubbles (found at Target), under the sea squirt guns, and sand toys I found in the dollar section at Target.

Underwater Adventure and Surf Shack Party Favors

Underwater Adventure and Surf Shack Party FavorsUnderwater Adventure and Surf Shack Party Favors

Event Styling and Coordination: Shannon Qualls of Parties and Potty Training http://partiesandpottytraining.com

Photography: Greg Qualls, Gloriane Ortega and Abigal Garcia

Printables: Matthew Carlson

Cake and Cupcakes: Kim Garcia of Kims Cake Studio http://kimscakestudio.blogspot.com

Popcorn: Walker’s Popcorn http://www.walkerspopcorn.com

Straws: Shop Sweet Lulu http://www.shopsweetlulu.com

Plastic bottles: Kara’s Party Ideas http://www.karaspartyideas.com

Paper Lanterns: Kara’s Party Ideas and Oriental Trading Company http://www.karaspartyideas.com http://www.orientaltrading.com

Ice Cream Cups and Alphabet Letters: The Tomkat Studio http://www.thetomkatstudio.com

Blue/White Cabana Fabric: Carousel Designs http://www.babybedding.com

Acrylic Cupcake Holder: Pastry Pedestal http://www.thepastrypedestal.com

Party Favors: Target and Oriental Trading http://www.orientaltrading.com

Party Shirts: Carter’s (alterations by mother in law)

Drink Dispensers and Lifeguard Drink Stand: http://www.potterybarn.com

First Day of Kindergarten Planetbox Lunch

Planetbox

My oldest started kindergarten yesterday and we sent him to school with a healthy, whole foods packed lunch- in his Planetbox. It was definitely a bittersweet day but we are so excited to see what God has in store for our little man! On to the lunch now.

1st Day of Kindergarten Planetbox lunch. Superhero themed.

I love Planetbox!

Let me say it again.

I.

LOVE.

Planetbox.

For real. It is so stinking amazing. When my oldest started preschool (at the ripe old age of 2) he needed a great lunchbox. I researched A LOT before buying anything. I wanted something that would be durable, dishwasher safe, good for the environment, and easy for a preschooler to open. I also wanted something that would have enough food space for a growing kiddo whose growth spurts are unpredictable.

The Planetbox fit the bill 100%. The ONLY downfall? It has a pretty hefty price tag for a lunchbox. BUT. And that’s a BIG but, it is 110% worth it. His box is going into it’s 4th year of use and is as good as new. Considering the fact that it has been used for 3 years and I expect it to last many more, I think that’s a great return on investment. We did replace his bag with a new one this year since it was a big milestone year (and his other bag was looking a little ratty) but I think that was totally okay.

Planetbox InteriorThey also have these amazingly fun magnet sets you can buy to dress up the top of the box. My son loves them so I do too!

So for his first day of school I packed him grapes, carrots, TJ’s Mediterranean hummus, TJ’s yogurt star, Cucumber and jicama stars, TJ’s olive oil potato chips and Ironman and Spiderman Sunflower seed butter and Heidi’s Organic Raspberry Jam. I added blueberries and lettuce to add a bit more color and make the sandwiches stand out a bit more.
1st Day of Kindergarten Planetbox lunch. Superhero themed.The sandwiches were stamped with superhero plunger cookie cutters, but since it was my first time using them I didn’t get as good of an imprint as I hoped to. The Ironman one came out better then Spiderman for sure.

Do you have a favorite lunch box? If so, what is it? What do you pack your kids for lunch?

 

 

Tuesday Recipe Freezer Lasagna

Freezer Lasagna from Parties and Potty Training
Photography By Jasmine Nicole Photography

Today I have for you a homemade lasagna that is a great freezer meal. I first got this recipe back in July of 2008. A friend of ours (hi Sandra!) made it for us and it was di-vine. I mean really. What’s not to love about diced tomatoes perfectly seasoned squished between soft noodles and copious amounts of cheese?

Make Ahead Freezer Lasagna partiesandpottytraining.com

The great thing about this recipe is it is SO easy to double. Not only that, it freezes beautifully! So if you need to take someone a meal or just don’t want to cook, this is a great meal to have in your arsenal (and freezer!).

Make Ahead Freezer Lasagna partiesandpottytraining.com

Now, in the past six years that I have had this recipe, I have made some changes to make it my own. So while the original credit goes to Sandra Bauman, the recipe I have included is my adaption.

Original Recipe: Sandra Bauman
Adapted Recipe: Shannon Qualls

Go ahead and make this a few hours before baking it, or just make it and through it in the oven. It’s really good both ways- though the flavors come together more the longer they hang out. I promise it’s worth the wait.

Ingredients:

1 box uncooked lasagna noodles

Sauce:
1 can (28 oz) Diced Tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) Tomato sauce (only if you like your sauce a little more runny)
1-2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2-3 garlic cloves (minced)
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup onion diced
1/2 bell pepper diced
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
Basil and Oregano to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cheese Mixture:
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese (or romano shredded is yummy too)
1 beaten egg
16 oz cottage cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup diced zucchini and summer squash

1 bag (16oz) mozzarella cheese

For the sauce:
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add in onions and bell peppers- sauté until tender but not wimpy (super soft). You want them to have a little crunch. Add the garlic and sauté just long enough to brown but not burn it. Add the red wine and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes (reducing it down). Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste (add the sauce too if you like your sauce a little more runny. I like mine a little more chunky so I don’t generally add the sauce). Add the seasonings and let it simmer for 15-30 minutes. (Note about seasoning- you want to add enough pepper/salt to have a little bit of a kick at the back of your tongue. To prevent over seasoning make sure to add it slowly, stir and taste. Add more as necessary).

(If you want to make this a meaty lasagna, just grab a pound of ground meat or turkey, brown it and when it’s about half way done browning, start with the first step of the sauce. You could also brown it in a separate dish and add it in with the wine step if you wanted to.)

For the cheese mixture:
Mix it all up in a separate bowl and set aside.

Layer as follows in 13”x 9”x2” pan:

Layer a small amount of sauce to cover bottom of a 13x9x2 inch pan. Put a single layer of noodles down. Add about one third of the tomato sauce with the diced zucchini and summer squash then add half of the cottage cheese and a third of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat. Add a final layer of noodles on top with the last of the tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle additional parmesan cheese on top. Cover with aluminum foil and put it in the fridge or freezer until ready to cook.

Place covered in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and enjoy!

Credits: Jasmine Nicole Photography

St Patrick’s Day Engagement Styled Shoot

Green and gold Styled Engagement Shoot Styled by: Shannon Qualls at Parties and PottyTraining, Photography by: Jasmine Nicole Photography, Flowers by Amy Balsters of Amy Nicole Floral Studio

Since things are finally slowing down a bit here I can get caught up on posting some seriously fun events.

Back in February my girlie friend Jasmine, from Jasmine Nicole Photography, approached me about wanting to do a styled shoot for St. Patrick’s Day. Of course I said yes but it was one of those things that, if it was going to happen, it would have to be fast! So we met to talk about what she was thinking, started a Pinterest board and began contacting vendors and models. All in all, I think concept to execution was something like 10-14 days (and I was 7 months preggo!) Whoo! Many thanks and kuddos to Jasmine and everyone else that brought it together!

Green and gold Styled Engagement Shoot Styled by: Shannon Qualls at Parties and PottyTraining, Photography by: Jasmine Nicole Photography, Flowers by Amy Balsters of Amy Nicole Floral Studio

I knew I wanted to work with the lovely Amy Balsters, of Amy Nicole Floral Studio. So I mentioned it and Jasmine set it up. It was awesome! Amy is super talented and great to work with. She’s my go to for events so be sure to give her some love on Facebook!

Green and gold Styled Engagement Shoot Styled by: Shannon Qualls at Parties and PottyTraining, Photography by: Jasmine Nicole Photography, Flowers by Amy Balsters of Amy Nicole Floral Studio

We also wanted to work with Deanna Gonzalez for the cake and were excited that she agreed to it as well. The cake was super fun and fit right in on the gold table.

Green and gold Styled Engagement Shoot Styled by: Shannon Qualls at Parties and PottyTraining, Photography by: Jasmine Nicole Photography, Flowers by Amy Balsters of Amy Nicole Floral Studio

Jasmine’s girlie friend Mariel, of Mariel Joy Design Studio, did an amazing job creating the printables we used for the shoot. From the place cards to the Menu, it fit the fun, stylish vibe we were going for.

Green and gold Styled Engagement Shoot Styled by: Shannon Qualls at Parties and PottyTraining, Photography by: Jasmine Nicole Photography, Flowers by Amy Balsters of Amy Nicole Floral Studio

Jasmine wanted something really fresh and fun that was modern and now. We decided on the green and gold color scheme (it was for St. Patty’s Day after all!) with pops of pink. Amy did a great job of bringing the flowers together and creating that extra ump the table needed. I loved that Pantone’s color of the year was Emerald Green. It was the perfect opportunity for us to showcase that and have the table feel current.

Green and gold Styled Engagement Shoot Styled by: Shannon Qualls at Parties and PottyTraining, Photography by: Jasmine Nicole Photography, Flowers by Amy Balsters of Amy Nicole Floral Studio

Since my current obsession is gold flatware and we were able to use some from a friend for the shoot. I die for it. Really. It’s amazing. So much so, I decided to buy my own set.

Green and gold Styled Engagement Shoot Styled by: Shannon Qualls at Parties and PottyTraining, Photography by: Jasmine Nicole Photography, Flowers by Amy Balsters of Amy Nicole Floral Studio

I loved the gold dessert table! It took some reworking onsite and I GREATLY appreciated the feedback from Jasmine and Amy! Thanks for your patience ladies!

Green and gold Styled Engagement Shoot Styled by: Shannon Qualls at Parties and PottyTraining, Photography by: Jasmine Nicole Photography, Flowers by Amy Balsters of Amy Nicole Floral Studio

You can view more photos on Ruffled here or on Jasmine’s site here

Shoot Location: Albuquerque, NM / Photographer: Jasmine Nicole Photography / Event and Table Styling: Shannon Qualls of Parties and Potty Training / Flowers: Amy Balsters / Hair: Brittany Moreno / Makeup: Kata Baron of The Pretty Committee / Suit: H&M / Bow Tie: The Tie Bar / Models: Leslye Ragsdale and Jonathan Orner / Wedding Cake: Deanna Gonzalez / Donuts and Cookies: Brenna Schrimsher / Chair Rentals: Classic Party Rentals / Paper Goods: Mariel Schmitt

 

 

Tuesday Recipe: Sweet and Chunky Chicken Salad

Crunchy Chicken Salad
Photograph by Jasmine Nicole Photography

I’ve been wanting to blog some recipes for a long time. Unfortunately, I’m not a great photographer and if you don’t know much about food photography- well, let’s just say it’s not as forgiving as parties can be…

Fortunately, I have some really talented photographer friends and Jasmine, of Jasmine Nicole Photography, agreed to help me out. So if you haven’t yet, you need to go like her page on Facebook and then run over and follow her blog. She’s super and super talented.

Speaking of liking pages, don’t forget to like ours if you haven’t already! I post fun deals from my favorite kitchenware/lunch/household stuff when I see it and sneak peaks of parties.

When I was growing up my mom would make chicken salad during the summer. It was one of my favorite dishes. The sweet juiciness of the grapes paired well with the saltiness and tang of the celery. Every summer we make it and every summer it makes my tastebuds happy and brings back fond memories from my childhood.

Photograph by Jasmine Nicole Photography
Photograph by Jasmine Nicole Photography

You can make this with any kind of chicken really. You can boil, bake, or fry. Whatever you want. Recently I’ve been on a Rotisserie kick and just buy a precooked chicken from Costco. It lasts all week and we can add it to salads or whip up this bad boy.

Photograph by Jasmine Nicole Photography
Photograph by Jasmine Nicole Photography

Know what else I love about it? Super duper easy to make. Six ingredients. That’s all. Unless you are thirsty, then it’s seven.

Photograph by Jasmine Nicole Photography
Photograph by Jasmine Nicole Photography

Chunky, Crunchy and Sweet Chicken Salad:

2-4 cups of cooked chicken (cubed or shredded)

1 cup purple grapes (halved)

1/2-1 cup chopped celery

1/2-1 cup pecans (or other hearty nut you have on hand)

1-2 hearty scoops of mayonnaise using your tablespoon (I don’t really like mine over dressed so I always start with less and add more if needed)

salt and pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix it up! That’s it! You can totally use more or less of the ingredients depending on your taste. I love to serve this on romaine or spinach leaves. It’s also awesome on sandwiches. Grab a croissant and prepare to die. Seriously, SO GOOD.

What dish reminds you of summer?

 

 

 

A Birth, Birthdays, Weddings, Move, House and Graduations

Photograph by: Latisha Lyn Photography
Photograph by: Latisha Lyn Photography

A lot has happened since my last post. A LOT.

As you know, we sold our house last summer. God told us to so we did. We ended up renting for about 10 months from my mom to save a down payment (with help from my mom-thanks mom!) and find a house in the area we wanted to be in. Well, we found a great little ranch style house in THE neighborhood we wanted  back in February and closed in March. We ended up doing some cosmetic work before moving in so we didn’t move in until April. By that point, I was in the third trimester with our third son. (Note to self- don’t ever try DIY moving four months before giving birth.) I hope to start posting pictures as we start making changes to the house. Right now I’m still trying to get unpacked and settled in though!

photo

 

Also in March my  older brother got married. We weren’t able to attend but I heard it was lovely!

In April Greg was called by a recruiter about a possible job opportunity. Long story short- he got it! He flew out to LA literally three days before my C-section was scheduled and they called to offer him the job the next day. Figuring out how vacation time/notice/etc. would be given was a bit of a challenge but in the end God worked it all out. He started at the end of May.

Deacon joined our family on May 9 (just in time for mothers day!) and has been a joy. I don’t know if he’s an easier baby or if he seems easier because he’s our third, but it feels so much easier this time around. The birth and recovery were also a thousand times easier this time. It was an answer to prayer. Thank you all who prayed!

Deacon Going Home
Deacon - Birth
Photograph by: Latisha Lyn Photography
Photograph by Latisha Lyn Photography
Photograph by: Latisha Lyn Photography

Our friend Latisha, of Latisha Lyn Photography, took pictures before and after the birth that are just amazing. If you want to read a little more about that and see all of the pictures, go here. We HIGHLY recommend using her at your birth. She captures it in such a unique and beautiful way!

Asa graduated Pre-K a week after Deacon was born. They had a sweet little graduation ceremony where the kids sang songs and we got to watch a slideshow of pictures from their year. Sooooo cute.

Asa's graduation

Mason graduated from the nursery to the toddler class at church which was super great.

Mason's First Day in Toddler Class

One of my younger brother’s got married about 10 days after Deacon’s birth so I wasn’t able to make it out there. Such a bummer. Fortunately, Greg was able to go and he officiated the wedding for them. I Skyped in for the ceremony but the Wifi wasn’t great so I only caught it in snapshots. It was better then nothing though!

Andy and Rachel's Wedding

The older boys celebrated their 5th and 2nd birthdays at the beginning of June. We did a big birthday this year since it was Asa’s golden birthday and Mason was sick for the birthday last year. It went really well except that it was one of the hottest days on record. Great for the spray park, not so great for the desserts. Anyway, keep an eye out for a post on that soon!

Pottery Barn Inspired Shark

A few weeks later we helped host a dinner party for some recent graduates. That was definitely exhausting. Two large events within two weeks of each other with a newborn. Not something I really want to do again..lol. More on that soon too.

Photograph by Latisha Lyn Photography
Photograph by Latisha Lyn Photography
Flowers by Amy Balsters at www.amydoesflowers.com

So we had a really low key 4th of July and spent it doing hanging with some friends and enjoying a pool party with other friends.

Salad

We’ve been enjoying the summer attending concerts and movies in the park. I’ve been trying to get the kids out and do fun things 2-3 times a week with the help of some awesome lady friends.

Family Picture
Ninja

Asa is starting Kindergarden in August so we are also gearing up for that. Any been there, done that moms have any tips for me? Favorite school supplies? How is your summer going?