Sunshine and Lemonade, Birthday Party Invitation and Party Photos

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sunshine and lemonade birthday party invitation processIf I haven’t said it a thousand times already, Jess and I make a great team! So when she came to me with the idea of a vintage summer birthday party for her son’s second birthday, back in probably November haha, I had many months to get excited to get started on the project. This time, she left it fully in my hands on what to do. She just gave me a photo of a lemonade stand that she wanted to make and then said go. I thought about it for a month or two—seriously, she always gives me plenty of time—and came up with using watercolor as a way of coloring in the invitation. And since her colors started as being yellow, gray and white, I thought a simple line art illustration would work perfectly.

sunshine and lemonade birthday party watercolor invitation processJust to show Jess the layout I wanted to go with, I sketched out a rough idea. Once she saw it, she suggested adding the pendant banners. Love! And then we also decided to add the blue and green to add some more color and make it more kid like. It was for a 2 year old’s birthday party after all.

I then traced the photo she had given me of the lemonade stand, added a kid’s big wheel bike and voila! The invite was almost done.

Then came the fun part… I first tested water coloring straight on the invitation. We ended up not going that route for two reasons: 1. who has time to paint each invitation? and 2. the paper just got too warped from the water.

So instead, I painted on a blank page with the general idea of what I needed. I then scanned that in and added it the drawing. I really am happy with doing that, it allowed us to have the lemonade stand wood in solid white rather than having the green grass show through.

your new friend sam water color invitation process

But to still give it that tactile feel, we printed all the invites on watercolor paper from our home printer.

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sunshine and lemonade your new friend sam birthday invitation

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Then my part was pretty much done. Except for a few more graphics for the party, the rest was up to Jess’ magical party planning hands (see her Pinterest board here).

It’s always fun to hear about all the planning that goes into such an event and then get to just show up and see it all brought to life!

I took a few hundred photos of the party… the day couldn’t have been more perfect for a sunshine filled party celebrating little Grayson! Hope you enjoy…

And thanks Jess for sharing some of your photos with me too… hers are marked below. Read her post on the party here, and then invitation here.

Since this was a lemonade party, the focal point of the decorations was this amazing lemonade stand that Jess and her hubby Scott made!

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Then Jess took a few old bicycle tires, found at a garage sale, spray painted them white and adding dozens of photos of G through the years. Such a cute idea!

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Then she had the treat table…

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Along with the “guest book,” a sun I designed based off the invitation that was filled with fingerprints of all the guests (like last year’s caterpillar!).

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And then of course, a party couldn’t be complete with cake!

Grayson seriously makes the sweetest faces! Here’s just a few as he was so adorably admiring his cake…

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And any good 2 year old’s party includes lots of kiddos running around… so let’s end this post on the cutest of notes!

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You remember baby Parker?

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Grayson had the sweetest reactions to his presents… especially his new Toy Story pajamas.

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Little Grayson,

Hope you know how much you are loved… how much you have been prayed for. I love your sweet demeanor, those sparkly eyes, and your flirty show-off side… may you never lose that sparkle and precious little smile that shows us all that dear heart of yours.

Love, Auntie Sam

A Year Spent at the Happiest Place on Earth / 2013-2014

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Today my Disneyland pass expires. After having an annual pass to the Happiest Place on Earth since Christmas of 2004, I am so heartbroken to not just be able to head down there whenever I want. Looking back over the years, I feel so blessed and am so thankful for all the little moments and celebrating all the major milestones. It’s the place I fell in love, it’s where friendships were strenghtened, its the place where my little nieces and nephews saw a whole new world with a sparkle in their eyes. And oh my gosh, I miss it already.

On the other hand, Disneyland to me has always been a creative and artistic masterpiece. Every single nook and cranny has been thoughtfully executed down to the smallest detail. It has been crafted with love and a passion for the ideals of one man, Walt Disney. Walking down Main Street, I am just filled with so much creative juice that my heart just feels full and my mind is racing with ideas.

And while I am taking a break from having a pass for awhile… I will forever cherish all these days and nights spent in the most beautiful amusement park ever created. Okay, I think Paris and Tokyo Disneyland are the prettiest, but I haven’t been to those—yet.

So here’s to yet another great year spent at the Happiest Place on Earth—and my last for a little while! To the memories and photographs, to the friends and laughter.

See my 2010 year at Disneyland, 2011,  and 2012.

May 7

The day I got my pass was just to be able to get in for the day to take Rachel’s maternity photos… it was great to be back after not having a pass for 2 months. And of course, great to be there for sun kissed moments such as this…

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September 22

Saying goodbye to the Courtyard of Angels as they closed it down the following week to make it the new entrance to Club 33. It’s my favorite spot in the park, see my post on it here.

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November 11

My first trip with my newest Disneyland ride buddy!! I was pretty excited, can you tell?

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November 15

First time seeing Amie as Mrs. Pankratz since the wedding! So much catching up to do while exploring Disneyland at its Christmas finest!

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December 8

Before going on Splash Mountain with the newlyweds… and before Amie was very upset with us for making her sit in the front row and get totally drenched.

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January 12

Celebrating our annual trip for Rachel’s birthday.

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January 17

Because I just couldn’t pick which Ryan boy to post! And because they are both just so darn cute!!

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February 9

One last trip before the husband’s pass expired.

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April 9

Molly’s first trip to Disneyland! And her buddy Grayson and my buddy Jess looking at ducks… again, couldn’t decide which kiddo to show! More photos from this trip here.

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April 11

Mia took her first spin around the teacups during what we thought would be our last trip together! Another couple photos from this trip here!

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April 30

Another “last trip before the pass expires…” I just love watching the kiddos experience the joys we take for advantage. Like the fun of a carousel.

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May 4

Since I started my pass and this post off with 8 month pregnant Rachel, I thought it was only appropriate to end with 11 month old Mia in her mama’s arms.

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Wow… what a year it was! I can’t promise you that I didn’t cry a few times going through photos to create this post. I love these friends of mine who are more like family. And this park that sometimes feels more like home.

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Loving Life thru My Lens

This past week was just so fun… from Disneyland trips to the birthday celebrations over the weekend… I spent a lot of time behind my camera capturing the moments. I feel so incredible blessed to call these people friends who are really more like family.

I just wanted to share a few of my favorite photos from this last week, just a glimpse of the joy I saw thru my lens.

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Molly’s first trip to Disneyland.

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Just the cutest little profile of an almost 2 year old on a break from playing with the ducks.

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Eli runs home at his weekly baseball game.

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Trying to capture all my last moments [for awhile]  of the Happiest Place on Earth.

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Amelia’s happy grin in her mama’s arms.

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Eli’s first pinata experience.

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And a dad’s extreme joy and getting to pull the pinata out of reach. 🙂

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How cute are two 2-year olds!? I mean really, is there anything cuter??

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And then spa splashing fun!

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Eli’s fun with his new bubble machine from Auntie Yoyo.

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Hudson’s backward binoculars experience.

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The big boys playing ball games.

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And to end the weekend, our new two year old Owen being so happily embarrassed during his happy birthday song.

Hope you enjoyed loving life thru my lens!

13 Ways to Make Each Trip to Disneyland Memorable

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In Southern California, it seems like everyone—at one time or another—has had a Disneyland annual pass. And I have had a Disneyland pass for a solid 9 years now. But the plan right now, is when my pass expires in May, to not renew it. We just aren’t able to go nearly as often as we used to… And as my time at the Happiest on Earth comes to a halt pause, I’ve been reminiscing like crazy of this place that I love so much. And as I’ve been looking through 10 years worth of Disneyland trips I’m reminded of a question I get asked all the time is…

How do I keep going without getting bored?

And to answer this age old question, I’ve written up a list of ideas for you that can truly enrich your Disneyland experience. And please pardon me as I get sappy and sentimental with a post full of photos from the past. 🙂

1. Rainy Days

Go on a rainy day. This is one of my favorite “secret” tips. It’s a widely known fact that the residents of southern California are ever fearful of water falling from the sky and scatter at the first raindrop—making these days the best Disneyland days. No lines, no crowds, no heat… just a few raindrops and breaking records on quantity of rides! Better yet, go on all the water rides, especially Splash Mountain and River Rapids, more than likely you won’t have to wait in any lines. And if you really don’t want to get totally soaked, stop by the store on the way for some $1 ponchos!

Rachel and Me before Grizzly Rapids, 2010

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2. Monorail Ride

Start your day off right with a ride into the park in style, up front with the Monorail conductor.

Riding up front with Joyce, 2006

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3. Dress Up!

Disneyland has a few unofficial dress up days like last weekend’s Dapper Day, but one of my favorites was when my girlfriends and I dressed in matching shirts with our favorite Disney characters for my bachelorette party.

Bachelorette party, 2007

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4. Iconic but Unique Photos

Speaking of photos in front of the castle… Whenever you go to Disneyland, you pretty much have to take a picture right smack in front of the castle. But now that that spot’s practically a mob scene, I would totally recommend branching off to the sides of the castle to get your favorite family photo. Plus, your family moment will be much more intimate than fighting for space in front of the castle.

Rachel’s Disneyland maternity photos, 2013 (link)

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5. Holi-Days

Enjoy the different seasons. From Halloween to Christmas. Not only is the parked decked out in its finest, but there’s extra shows to see and ride overlays to experience. My favorite Christmas time show is the Candlelight Processional—my favorite—usually held the first weekend of December. And of course starting in the fall, Haunted Mansion turns into Jack Skellington’s stomping grounds until the new year. As well as Small World decking the halls with bells of holly.

Candlelight Processional, 2009

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6. Take the Train

Take the train all around the park. Ask to sit up by the engineer (2 people max) or better yet, get there early enough to reserve a trip in the Lilly Belle—the parlor car decorate by Lillian Disney herself—and the caboose to the C.K. Holiday train.

Lilly Belle ride, 2008

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7. Scavenger Hunt

Go on a scavenger hunt. Find Hidden Mickeys (great Hidden Mickey book here) or use the Wishing Stars app.

Joey finds a Hidden Mickey on Mulholland Madness, 2006

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8. Show Time

Don’t go on any rides, just enjoy the shows. From the 3D shows to the parades to stage productions like Aladdin, just spending the day at shows can really take up the whole day. And a great way to enjoy the parks in the summer, away from the crowds and in the air conditioning! My favorite 3D show is Muppet Vision in California Adventure. But of course my all time favorite show would be the Fantasmic production on the Rivers of America. Favorite by far!

The Ryan family before It’s Tough to Be A Bug, 2014

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9. Ride Photo Poses

Diversify your “ride photos” with different poses and reactions. The sleepers always crack me up.

Korey, Kory, Lauren, Ashley, Gaby, and me on Space Mountain, 2008

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10. Birthday Celebrations!

I love celebrating birthdays at Disneyland. Wearing your birthday pin always gains the affections of all the cast members and ensures that your day will be a happy one.

Rachel’s first trip to Disneyland, 2009

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11. Free Snack Food

Take advantage of the only free stuff Disney offers: Ghiradelli chocolates and sourdough bread in California Adventure’s Pacific Wharf. Actually, this isn’t really a way to mix up your trips, but something to enjoy every trip. (RIP Tortilla Factory 🙁 )

First trip to Ghiradelli’s Chocolate Shop, 2012

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Fine Dining

Speaking of food, another fun way to make a few trips feel extra special is to dine in at the nicer restaurants the park offers. Whether its Blue Bayou, the restaurant within the Pirates of the Caribbean… or its neighbor: Club 33.

Andy and I have dined at Blue Bayou quite a few times, usually celebrating our anniversaries or during our honeymoon. Here’s a photo from our one year “dating anniversary,” 2006.

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And I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since our first ever experience at Club 33. Read more on that trip here, and a full photo tour here.

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Friends & Family

By far, the best way to diversify your trips to Disneyland is to go with different groups—from friends to family. I can’t tell you how many friendships were formed within these park gates… But specifically, go with different ages. From usually going with adults the first half of having a pass… it’s such a different experience (obviously haha) going with kids. You see the park in a whole new eye opening, jaw dropped-in-awe experience. This may seem oh-so-very obvious to most… but it’s only been in the last 5 years that I started going with kids (thanks Eli!). And for this Disney-fanatic, I love sharing the joy and wonder in the parks with these little kiddos. I think my heart grows in size every single trip.

Eli watching the Pixar Play Parade, 2010

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Okay, I need to stop this post now even though I can go on and on… plus I’ve made myself cry like 6 times just writing it and going through all these old photos.

For a few more ideas check out these posts on Mice Chat

Do you have any special Disneyland adventures to share? Comment below! I only have a few trips left and I want to get it all in!