Tag Archives: downsizing

Halfway (TWO) One

Last Saturday we did the birthday party thing again. I not only learned from last year. I actually applied the lessons I learned.

Theme: Ben & I thought it was great – halfway (two) one. Nobody else seemed to get it (since Leila is only halfway to her 1st Leap Year birthday. Get it? Nobody else did either.). I tried to carry it through a little bit – timing (halfway between breakfast and lunch), cutting all the food in half, in the party favor theme. I’m pretty sure this won’t be trending on Pinterest, which makes me love it all the more. Quirky and abstruse party themes are kind of my forte.


Food: Tried to make it as organic as possible but let frugality and simplicity win out – drinks (coffee, organic 1% milk boxes, organic chocolate milk boxes, organic juice boxes and bottled water), fresh fruit (organic bananas, organic strawberries & tangerines), muffins & bagels courtesy of Costco and breakfast tacos courtesy of Brother’s Tacos. That is, absolutely nothing prepared by me (or my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, such as last year). Well, I did wash and cut up the fruit. Okay, my mom did that.


Party Favors: I actually didn’t do these last year, and I wouldn’t have again…but $1/each at Target for some activity books? Why not? (In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I did consider making some busy bag activity as a party favor. Thankfully, reason and an understanding of my own limitations did win.)

Decorations: Balloons. Flowers in a vase. Pretty simple. I picked up some more clearance decorations from Target, but they stayed inside since I didn’t figure out how to jimmy rig them before the party started.



Activities: We brought out the bounce house my parents gave Leila for her birthday last year, and I bought four tubs for some sensory play (half were filled with water, half were filled with rice…wait, I guess I kind of carried the theme through here as well). We also brought out Leila’s outdoor/outdoor-friendly toys. Our neighbor had the brilliant idea to ask everyone to BYOB (bring your own ball). Turns out we didn’t really need the extra toys, but it’s such a clever idea I had to share.

And that was it. Everything was ready to go only 15 minutes after the party. I had time to actually enjoy it and take photos. Not to brag, but one of our younger guests even said it was “the greatest party ever.” Most important Leila had the time of her life – jumping, scooping and being outside.


Baby Gear: Toys & Books

When you’re pregnant and you ask what you need and people tell you that you really don’t need anything, they’re talking about toys and books and those grocery cart seat covers. Yes, between the library and plastic water bottles and Tupperware you really do not need any of it, but at some point that itty bitty blob starts interacting with the world beyond their mama’s breast, and at this point it becomes helpful to have some collection of toys and books. In my opinion, almost every toy feels like too many, and you can never ever have too many books.


I try desperately to keep Leila’s toy assortment small and manageable. Of course, in order to really do that I would have to limit her to a single teddy bear and clear our house of any potential gadget-turn-toy (e.g. measuring cups, lunchboxes, bags of bows in our too accessible gift wrap collection). I think that would be overkill. However, I am the Grinch-like daughter/daughter-in-law that limits the grandparents to ONE Christmas gift each. I also made a point in the invitations to Leila’s 1st birthday party for guests’ presence, not presents. Before you start bemoaning Leila’s fate at the hands of an overzealous minimalistic mom, let me let you in on a secret – she has plenty of toys. Specifically, she has:

(In the nursery, ideally)

Puzzles completely slipped my radar, but thanks to friends and family, Leila has a collection of five wooden puzzles. Before she had the coordination to put the pieces back, she enjoyed taking them out and using them for play. I love when toys can be used beyond their original purpose.

  • stuffed animals/balls

Literally every single one has made the rotation into favorite. My favorites are a hand-knit giraffe from Ben’s cousin and the little yellow duck, just because it was Leila’s first favorite.

  • dolls (two, for now)

The first was a gift from my mom for Leila’s 1st Persian New Year, and the second I bought for our trip to Chicago (I wanted Leila to have a small, hand-sized doll, and I wanted Leila to have a doll that didn’t look like her – I got a baby doll that met both items on my wish list for about $3.50 from Target)

  • electronic toys (camera, phone, classical music iPod, singing/dancing puppy)

Especially when Leila was little, these have all been life-savers in keeping her entertained in the crib when I needed to pee or shower or start a load of laundry.

  • stuff on wheels (truck and a cute hand-carved rooster)
  • rocking horse (the same one my dad bought when I was born, though we did update the mane)
  • walker wagon

(In the eat-in-turned-play-area nook of the kitchen)

  • play kitchen

I bought this well-loved kitchen from our neighbor’s garage sale for $6. I planned on upgrading it with one of those fancy repurposed kitchens, but this fits perfectly in the corner, Leila loves it and repurposing stuff takes a lot of work.

  • play food (Ikea, gifted knit fruits, old bottles/boxes) & cookware (Melissa & Doug, random assortment, including some from our camping gear)
  • tea set
  • table & chairs

(In the bath)


Leila’s not actually getting this until Christmas. I had this on my radar, and found one at a consignment sale for $48.50.

I couldn’t find the exact model to link to, but I found a ride-on toy at Goodwill for $6. Leila LOVES it. Go figure.

I was most definitely not in the market for this, but Leila gravitates towards it whenever there’s one around and it was only $1.50 at the consignment sale.

  • lawnmower push toy

Not something I’d typically buy, but Leila is loving push toys, and this was only $2.50 at the aforementioned consignment sale.

This is a little over the top. I know. My mom wanted to rent a bounce house for Leila’s first birthday, but for about the same price you could just buy a toddler version. We found the same one for under $200. Leila’s been too small to really enjoy it, but I’m looking forward to bringing it out once the weather actually cools down around here.

I am sure I am missing a few, and I didn’t mention any of the baby toys that are already retired or the ones set aside for when she gets a little older. The main reason I feel like we don’t need too many at home is that there are so many great options for play and an outing. Our favorites are our neighborhood park, the Houston Public Library, The Children’s Museum and The Houston Arboretum.


Now books are a whole different ballgame. Leila has been gifted with oh so many books, and I still find myself with a never-ending list of more I’d like to own. I don’t feel bad about my insatiable need for more because she actually enjoys every single one. I love finding her nestled in Wrigley’s bed or the couch or the glider in her nursery, just reading a book.


(more) reading with Wrigley

As much as I love lists, documenting every single book is even beyond my interest, but here’s a quick overview in case you’re looking for some book buying inspiration:


  • Matthew Van Fleet: our collection includes, Tails & Dog
  • Sandra Boynton: our collection includes, Moo, Baa, La La La!, Barnyard Dance!, Doggies, The Going to Bed Book (the 2nd of our 3 book pre-bedtime reads) and Happy Hippo, Angry Duck
  • Eric Carle: our collection includes, 3 versions of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (this was the 1st book Leila showed some real interest in, so it will always hold a special place in our hearts and on our bookshelf), Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?, The Very Busy Spider, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother Too? and Ten Little Rubber Ducks
  • Dr. Seuss: our collection includes, a lot. We’ve got a lot of Dr. Seuss. Most of the non-board book versions are still quite verbose for Leila, but she really enjoys Mr. Brown Can Moo (and so do I – it’s a lot of fun to read out loud)
  • Rod Campbell: our collection includes, Dear Zoo and Farm 123 (which I just found for $4 at a local consignment store)

(Nighttime Reads)

  • Tuck Me In! by Dean Hacohen
  • The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (I could not comprehend how this book was a classic when I first started reading it to Leila, but now I think it is the most beautiful book in the entire world.)

(Random Favorites)

  • Zoo-ology by Joëlle Jolivet
  • On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
  • Each, Peach, Pear, Plum by Janet & Allan Alhberg

I love all of Leila’s books. Mainly I love Leila enjoying all of her books. It does my English major heart good.

What about you? What are some of your favorite toys and books to have in the house?

*If you’re curious about my thoughts on baby gear after the 1st few months, check out this post.


Last November I made an attempt to purge our mail from all things junk. This morning I unsubscribed from the daily flood of emails alerting me to new promotions or offering hope for crazy amazing bargains. There were fourteen in all. Every single day we were getting at least FOURTEEN individual emails from different companies/company offshoots and deal sites, many of which I often deleted before opening. Why did I keep them around? I’m a sucker for a good deal story I suppose. However, I finally admitted to myself that I have neither the time nor the money to wade through the temptation to spend in order to save. Adieu email notifications from

– Amazon

– AmazonLocal Deals

– Anthropologie

– Destination Maternity

– Ec0BabyBuys

– Expedia

– Groupon

– Kayak

– Living Social

– L’OCCITANE en Provence

– Pottery Barn Kids

– PBTeen

– Target

– Zulily

Our inbox will be a lot emptier tomorrow morning. Hopefully. I’ve got something else to chase after these days.

I realize a lot of people have transferred these type of alerts to their smart phones, so perhaps this question is outdated, but am I the only one that let my inbox be inundated for fear of missing out on something we needed/wanted/could-not-live-without?