Sunday, February 23, 2014

Treasure Hunt Pirate Birthday PARRRty!

My daughter turned six in November. She wanted a pirate themed birthday party. I wanted to share the photos from her party in case you were interested in throwing your child a Pirate Parrrty too! I also wanted to share the photos with my family and friends.

Party Invitation
Children received a "Message in a Bottle" invitation. I purchased the paper at Hobby Lobby and typed up the words for Alyssa's invite. Then, I asked my hubby to burn the edges of the paper. We rolled it up and tied it with a pink pirate skull ribbon. The invitation was placed inside a plastic bottle with a tiny bit of sand and novelty items. The bottles were bought at Oriental Trading. I didn't like the invitations they provided which is why I made my own invitations for the party. We tried to hand deliver as many invites as possible to cut down on the cost for shipping.
Paper Eye Patch and Ring
Pirate Party Invitation

There were very few decorations this year. We blew up a few pirate balloons and used the treasure hunt items and snacks as decor. I also purchased a pink pirate table cloth for the gift table. The event center provided the black table cloths. The balloons were from Oriental Trading and Hobby Lobby.

Gift Table
I found the skeleton skull at Ross during an after Halloween sale. I didn't know that it lit up at the time. We placed black plastic treasure chests on the party room tables filled with skull candy and Sixlets (pink, white, and black).
"Walk the Plank" Hung High as Decor
Until Treasure Hunt Began
Party Room

Treasure Hunt Message Bottles
Unfortunately, several bottles from our Oriental Trading package were damaged. I didn't want to deal with refunds and didn't have time to wait for new bottles to arrive. I used the dented bottles to create a treasure hunt. I made up the riddles using ideas seen online in addition to my own. I needed to make many adjustments due to our party location.
Treasure Hunt Bottle Clues and Letter
The Treasure Hunt Letter That Arrived
Bottle Clues

Treasure Hunt Obstacles
The children needed to solve riddles and complete obstacle tasks in order to find the hidden treasure on site. They walked the plank, tossed cannon balls at Captain Jeff and his ship crew, dug for a coin, and spoke with a pirate. I apologize for the lack of action shots. I was leading the kiddos through the hunt so I wasn't able to take many photographs of the treasure hunt.
Message in a Bottle Arrived
What's Behind the Curtain?
Behind the Curtain:
Treasure Hunt Coin Dig
Walk the Plank:
Clue Hidden Underneath the Plank
There was a blue ocean tarp under the plank at the party.
Cannon Ball Toss
Bottle Clue Hidden at the Bottom

Treasure Chest
The golden treasure chest which stored the goody bags was my husband's old childhood chest. He dumped everything out so that we would have a chest big enough to hide the favors. The children were excited when they found it under the cake table!
Alyssa passed out the party favor chests
Favor Bags
The children found their mini treasure chests full of pirate novelties such as pirate tattoos, stickers, eye patch, telescope, bandana, pirate loot bag with chocolate pirate coins, treasure map, compass ring and a pirate souvenir coin at the end of the hunt. The favor bag items came from either Oriental Trading or Hobby Lobby.

Cake Table
Jeff and I work on the cakes together. I search the web for cake ideas and decide on a cake design and plan of attack. I bake and freeze the cakes in advance. I also make homemade buttercream frosting the day of the party. Jeff does most of the cake carving. We work together icing and decorating the cakes hoping our plan works.

Treasure Chest Cake
I used finely crushed vanilla wafer cookies for the sand around the treasure chest. A rice krispy treat wedge held the lid of the treasure chest up.

Pirate Ship Cake
This cake was almost a disaster. It split in half as we assembled it. My brilliant husband came up with a great idea to keep the pieces together and secure. We had root beer barrels on the ship and malted milk ball cannons. We wanted to add more to the cake, but we ran out of time and decided to keep it simple.

Which cake is your favorite? 

Ahoy Pirates!
Several children dressed up for the party this year. My friends who own the party site (Canyon Lake Event Center) dressed as pirates too. They were so sweet, nice, and helpful. Raina drove home and brought back a pirate costume for Jeff.

Pirate Alyssa
My daughter also wore the same costume for Halloween.

Captain Jeff Sparrow
Don't tell him, but I was particularly attracted to him on this day. Must have been that bad boy look! He's so handsome!
Raina, Billie Kay, and Alyssa

Food and Beverages
I had a lot of fun creating the food labels and deciding which snacks to serve. The labels were printed on cardstock, tent-folded, and the edges were inked.
Chocolate Wafer Cookie Planks
Cantaloupe and Watermelon Pirate Ships
Cheese Ball Cannon Balls (can't see on left)
Goldfish Crackers and Gummy Fish
Jello Ships
Our oranges were too big and we didn't realize it until it was too late.
Polly's Want an Oyster Cracker
Fruit Swords (cute sword picks)
Overall, I think the kiddos had a blast! They also enjoyed playing in the different bouncers and dancing in the ultimate black light room.
Black Light Dance Room
One of the Bouncers
My beautiful niece (Haydn) 
Birthday Girl Pirate! 
I will link this post up at Ben and Me's Blogging Through the Alphabet for Letter T. I will try to come back and add store and party idea links where possible at a later time. 

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey!

God bless,

Friday, February 14, 2014

Marriage Freebies and Giveaway

I have mentioned before that my Word for the Year 2014 is INTENTIONAL. I am trying to be more intentional in all areas of my life, but especially with my marriage. Today I am sharing several helpful marriage resources I have recently found on the Internet. I pray that they encourage and inspire you all.

The Irresistible Husband as FREE Valentine's Gift to You from Alisha available through Flourish Ends 2/16

Forever By Grace: 21-Day Prayer Challenge for Your Marriage - If you sign up, then you will also receive a set of FREE date night questions to discuss with your spouse.

Don't forget to enter my current giveaway for a copy of Dr. Gary Chapman's book titled, The Marriage You've Always Wanted. It ends TONIGHT so visit my blog soon!

I will link this post up at:
Missional Women
Family-Friendly Giveaway Linky

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review and Giveaway: The Marriage You've Always Wanted by Gary Chapman

I was recently offered the opportunity to review Dr. Gary Chapman's relationship book titled, The Marriage You've Always Wanted as part of FlyBy Promotions review program. It was an absolute blessing and pleasure to read this book! It couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time in my life. Some people will say that your marriage will go through many seasons. I happen to be in the midst of a very difficult season. We've had our ups and downs throughout the 14 years we've been married. Dr. Gary Chapman gives us hope that a great marriage is achievable especially with God at the heart and center of it. He says, "Marriages either get better or worse. They are not at a stand still." In my opinion, no marriage is 100% perfect. There's always room for improvement. I read this book in hopes that my marriage will grow closer to God and that it will strengthen over time.

About the Author: Dr. Gary Chapman
As anyone who has attended one of his marriage conferences knows, Dr. Gary Chapman’s expertise in marriage begins with the success and failures he and his wife Karolyn have experienced in their marriage for more than 45 years. He is just the man to turn to for help on improving or healing our most important relationships. His own life experiences, plus over thirty-five years of pastoring and marriage counseling, led him to publish his first book in the Love Language series, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Many of the millions of readers credit this continual New York Times bestseller with saving their marriages by showing them simple and practical ways to communicate love. Since the success of his first book, Dr. Chapman has expanded his Five Love Languages series with special editions that reach out specifically to singles, men, and parents of teens and young children. 

Book Synopsis Taken From Website
You can picture the perfect marriage in your mind, but re-creating it in reality doesn’t come easy. Trusted counselor and relationship expert Dr. Gary Chapman reasons that the most sought-after ingredient in any marriage is true oneness. In The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted, he presents expert wisdom and common sense methods to establishing that true unity on emotional and practical levels. Discover the wit and insight that makes his worldwide presentations and marriage conferences so popular. 
  • Are you trying to change your spouse? 
  • Do you know what it means to really love someone? 
  • Do you feel ignored or even alone in your effort to improve your marriage? 
Dr. Chapman has answers and action steps on topics from expressing your emotions to managing your money, all in a format that will have you and your spouse talking and learning with every page. 

Moody Publishers
144 Pages 

Chapter Topics Addressed
  • Why Do People Marry?
  • Why Won't They Change?
  • What Love Really Means
  • "Listen to Me!"
  • Who Takes Care of What
  • Decisions, Decisions
  • "You Mean We Have to Work at Sex?"
  • Leaving and Honoring Parents
  • Love and Money
The softcover paperback book concludes with an epilogue and a conglomeration of useful resources including websites, books, and devotionals. The helpful resource list targets issues such as communication, closeness, finances, and sexual intimacy. I added several of the book recommendations to my 2014 reading list. I am most grateful for having access to this list.

My Review Thoughts
Do you know how to get the marriage you've always wanted? Dr. Chapman guides you in the right direction with his book. I learned so much from reading The Marriage You've Always Wanted. Of course . . . your experience will be different depending on your circumstances and background. The book addresses familiar topics that many couples will find of interest and easily relate to as you can see from the chapter titles above. I found myself agreeing with the author on many levels.

Let me tell you about the first night I sat down to read this book. I opened the book and immediately noticed scripture references. I ran to grab my Bible from the other room while grasping my paper and pen tightly in my hand. What happened next was an immediate transformation of thought. My plan was to jot down information and comments about the book for my review instead I ended up diving into the book head first. At the end of each chapter, the author summarizes the information in his closing and provides "Your Turn" reflective questions and interactive exercises and discussions to complete with your significant other. My spouse was unable to participate at this point in time, but I found myself writing notes down and responding to the thought-provoking questions which ignited a new hope. The exercises or activities enabled me to see things from a different viewpoint.

Matthew 7:1-5, as discussed in Chapter 2, could be considered the foundation of the book. At the very beginning, I realized that I need to focus on my own faults firsts. Additionally, if my spouse isn't ready to work on our marital problems then at least I can do something. My efforts can influence his reactions and promote changes. It was painfully obvious that we have a lot of work to do in ALL areas of our marriage if we are to reach the deepest possible level of oneness and unity. Furthermore, we have many barrier walls that need to be torn down after years of miscommunication and unrealistic expectations.

Chapman politely reminds us all that "Marital happiness is NOT automatic" and that we can rely on the Word of God to help us when overwhelming obstacles arise. "Marital growth requires time and effort." The Bible tells us how to live and I intend on using it as my main self-help or relationship book. After listing my own sins or failures and confessing them to God, I thanked Him for forgiveness, mercy, and grace which enabled me to feel more at peace with my life.        

I enjoyed reading this book partly because it was a quick read. I found the information to be insightful and inspirational. The author's tone was straightforward and honest which I completely respect. The nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout this book helped me attain a deeper understanding of what kind of marriage I strive to obtain as we become closer to each other and God. Dr. Chapman's passion for Biblical scripture was clearly evident as his message placed a heavy emphasis on scripture. This Christian viewpoint was exactly what I needed to hear at this season in my marriage. Chapman constantly references meaningful scripture verses that can be applied to ANY marriage. These scripture references motivated me to apply his practical tips and suggestions to my marriage.

I truly appreciated reading the author's perspective on a variety of marital issues or topics. Dr. Gary Chapman's experience with marriage counseling no doubt impacted the sound and professional advice he offers his readers. He took a neutral, unbiased approach when giving advice to couples siding with neither males or females. His viewpoint on the Proverbs 31 woman was refreshing. I always cringe when I hear people refer to it. Thankfully, he diminished many misconceptions with regards to this verse and clarifies its meaning.

I have to say reading this book was an eye-opening experience for me. The valuable information in the book may serve as simple reminders to many married couples (which may be needed at this time), but I have never received this type of guidance in my life. The Marriage You've Always Wanted will have a profound influence on how I react in the future. It's time for me to reevaluate my attitude and we both need to adjust our expectations. I found the author's words to be uplifting giving me hope when I felt none. Remember that the book is not meant to be a solution to your problems.

My favorite chapters were on decision-making, communication, household duties, and love. These four chapters emphasized the importance of making decisions together, creating and agreeing on an action plan for household responsibilities, having honest communication, and about how to reveal your love through the words you speak and your actions. The chapter about love encouraged me to be more intentional with my marriage by doing a kind, loving act or deed at least once a day for an entire month which worked great with my Valentine's Day countdown plan. This small action step has already lead to positive and recognizable changes in my marriage. I am working on building up my marriage. I also learned to accept my husband's minor imperfections for what they are rather than blowing them up into something bigger. The author even touched on the in-law issue and how to deal with them constructively. I have a lot of work to do in this area in my life, but what he said made complete sense to me. I know that I have caused a tremendous amount of stress on my husband in this area which has lead to many marital problems. I can't change who they are or what they do. I giggled through some parts of the book. The stories mentioned were far too similar to my personal experiences helping me see that I am not alone.

I plan on rereading this book again at a much slower pace so that I can complete ALL of the written exercises properly. I suggest not rushing through this book. Try implementing the practical suggestions aiming for small growth and changes in your marriage. Successful application of the principles within this book are the key to marital oneness and unity if the couple works as a team. There's no "I" in team - right? I don't expect my marriage to get better just because I read the book. I am currently reading this book aloud to my husband during our travels. He doesn't have a lot of time for personal reading while studying for his test and reading is not one of his favorite hobbies. I pray that he'll agree to complete the reflective prompts together after his promotion test is over.

I highly recommend The Marriage You've Always Wanted for any couple whether you are engaged, newlyweds, or have been married for years. This book is not just for troubled marriages. If you desire a strong Christian marriage based on biblical principles and truths, then this is a must read. I also suggest that couples read the book and complete the exercises together. The book can be used as an individual self-improvement study, small-group study, or as an outreach opportunity in mission work. Marriage counselors will want this book on their shelves as a reference or for their clients. Furthermore, I believe this book would make a wonderful bridal shower or wedding gift.    

Social Media
Visit the Official Website
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Additional Resource
There is also a small group curriculum available for purchase.

Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. I am disclosing this information In accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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