NWI Parent

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Tears of a clown—Economy shrinking kid parties

February 6th, 2010 - By Lisa Orkin Emmanuel, Associated Press Writer

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2010, Ooopsy the clown carries Nicholas Castillo as they form a conga line at his birthday party in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ooopsy the Clown threw in a bubble machine for the monkey-themed party marking Nicholas Castillo’s first birthday. She usually charges extra, but what’s a clown to do in a recession that has some parents throwing less extravagant celebrations for their kids?

Ooopsy, aka Amy Tinoco, estimates the entertainment company she co-owns took in about $80,000 before taxes and expenses last year. That’s about $46,000 less than in 2008. She used to do an average of 12 parties a weekend. Now it’s down to three.

“I didn’t realize how good it was,” said Tinoco, who wore a red wig, multicolored skirt and blue clown shoes for Nicholas’ bash. “It’s a huge difference. I have a lot of people telling me they are having a party, they are just not having entertainment and catering.”

Party of Two—The Birthday Party

January 12th, 2010 - By Julia Perla

Laugh, cry and multitask with Julia as she documents the triumphs and debacles of life as a single working mother.

This past weekend, we celebrated Isabella’s 7th birthday with her first-ever, tried-and-true birthday party. And a party it was.

Some parents are shocked that I managed to wait 7 years before hosting a birthday party. We’ve always celebrated with family but never with Isabella’s friends. She never really cared until now, to be honest. But this year, she was dying to have one. And of course she wanted to have it at one of those overpriced warehouses filled with inflatable “jumpy things.” I’ve accompanied Isabella to several parties of the jumpy variety, and she had a blast at all of them, but I wasn’t about to pay $300 just to spend an hour cringing at every head-on collision. I wanted her to have a party the old-school way, the way I remembered parties from my childhood… inside the home, giggling with girlfriends, dancing to whatever boy band is popular. You know, real character-building stuff.

Continue reading Julia’s latest post here on her “Party of Two” blog.

Hey Smarti Pants, let’s party!

November 28th, 2009 - By Rob Earnshaw

Plan a stress-free birthday gathering for you child

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

Roxanne Kielpikowski reads the instructions to a Lego race car set to those attending her son Daniel Kielpikowski's 6th birthday party held at Smarti Pants Specialty Toys and Gifts. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Bis/The Times.)

An invitation has gone out to parents in Northwest Indiana. A specialty toy store in Highland wants you to bring your children and their friends to their place to party, party, party!

Smarti Pants Toyz is now offering birthday parties with more than 20 different themes geared toward children 3 to 8 and older.

“We wanted something else to offer for birthdays in this area,” said Randi Stricker, who co-owns Smarti Pants Toyz with her sister, Staci Kaufmann. “There are not that many options.”

Two takes on creeped out cupcakes for Halloween

October 21st, 2009 - By The Associated Press

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

Bright, colorful and jiggly Get Slimed Cupcakes have all kinds of appeal with the kids the Halloween. (AP PHOTO)

If you’re looking for easy, no-recipe-needed Halloween treats, these creeped out cupcakes are an eerily good choice. In one, a traditional frosted cupcake falls victim to a bat attack. In the other, they take a slimy, almost radioactive, turn.

Both ideas are from Matthew Mead’s Monster Book of Halloween, which is jammed with numerous ghastly treats and decorations.

Filed under: Food. Tags: , , , , , .

New local company hosts tea parties for girls, who can wear provided child-size ball gowns

September 12th, 2009 - By Andrea Holecek

Kim Newberry, of Cedar Lake, serves lemonade as "imaginary tea" to her daughter, Ilana, 5. Newberry has started her own business, Mrs. Newberry's Traveling Tea Parties. The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum. (Photograph by John Luke Photos/The Times.)

Life experience, heritage and career have been the catalysts for Kim Newberry’s new business venture, Mrs. Newberry’s Traveling Tea Party.

The tea parties, specifically for girls aged 3 to 8, are structured to transport participants into the land of princesses and propriety, as well as give them a real-life lesson in refinement and ladylike decorum.

Newberry, who worked in the restaurant industry for 23 years, opened the business to find a different career path, one that would allow her more time at home with her children, son, Dakota, age 4, and daughter, Ilana, who is 5.

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , , .

Creative cakes can become a family tradition

August 9th, 2009 - By Melissa Kossler Dutton, Associated Press

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

This photo shows a sleepover cake Dunn made for her daughter Caroline's 10th birthday last year. The cake is a basic 13x9. The bodies are Twinkies, the heads are vanilla wafers, the pillows are marshmallows. (Photograph by AP/Amy Dunn.)

Kay Martin decided early on that she wanted special celebrations for her children’s birthdays. For her, that meant homemade, hand-decorated cakes.

“I bought a cake-decorating book before my first kid was even born,” said Martin of Plain City, Ohio. She wowed guests at her daughter’s first birthday with a three-dimensional cake shaped like alphabet blocks. “It got rave reviews,” she said.

Since then, she has created cakes resembling a country cottage, Legos and Noah’s ark for her two daughters.

Filed under: Food.

Food with a Dash of Fun—planning a holiday get-together

Gearing up and down for the holiday season

November 21st, 2010 - By Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

‘Tis the season for racing through the mall, staying up late decorating the tree and spending all weekend baking cookies. But it does not have to be that way.

A simpler holiday season could be in your future. It is possible to slow things down, focus on what matters and toss aside those so-called traditions that have lost their meaning. Instead of ending up exhausted and depressed, you could wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take in all the meaningful moments that this time of the year offers.

Here’s some ways to get you started.

Think happy thoughts

Join the Happiness Project and in no time you’ll be spreading holiday cheer.

Gretchen Rubin spent a year test-driving theories on how to achieve happiness and turned the results into her best-selling book The Happiness Project. You’ll find plenty of info there, but she also has a website packed with inspirational quotes, articles and advice your mother probably never gave you. Among her tips: step away from the screens. Not just TV screens but any screen including those little ones on cell phones. Go for a walk, listen to music, relax, get more sleep. Need more inspiration? “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

It’s a party! ‘Sex parties’ reveal baby gender

September 5th, 2010 - By Greg Bluestein, The Associated Press

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

This undated photo provided by Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of the Utah-based bake shop The Sweet Tooth Fairy, shows a cake the bake shop made for an expectant Utah mother who wanted the gender of her baby to be revealed using cake. The mother gave a sealed envelope that contained a sheet of paper with the gender of her baby written on it to the bake shop. They saw the gender and dyed the cake batter pink. When the family made the first cut of the cake they found out they were having a baby girl. (AP Photo/The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Megan Faulkner Brown)

We called it a sex party. But it’s not what you think.

My wife Sheryl and I never hesitated on whether we wanted to find out the sex of our baby. But we also knew we didn’t want the news to come at our doctor’s office.

The thought of celebrating the news at a sterile medical building made her stomach turn. And that’s never a good thing when you’re pregnant.

So she came up with an elaborate, creative plan to discover the news about the baby at our own home—surrounded by some of our closest friends. Here’s how it worked:

Filed under: Activities. Tags: , , .

Oh, The Places We Will Go—In The Land of Birthday Parties

August 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

NWI Parent Blog—Jamie is experiencing the South Shore one little moment at a time.

Birthday Parties. I have fond and not-so-fond feelings on the subject. On the fond side – the delight in my child’s face as she blows out the candles or sees her friends arrive. There are also the pictures of the girls screaming with excitement as they play with their friends. The memories of the celebration days will last a lifetime. The headaches of planning it will last mere moments – so why do I dread it so?

It’s because I’m obsessive about…well, most anything. Why? No matter how simple I keep it, I want the day to be perfect – head to toe perfect. Which means I obsess and nit-pick over every little detail.

Continue reading Jamie’s latest post here on her “Oh, The Places We Will Go” blog.

Filed under: Activities, Family Life. Tags: , ,