Celebrating Noelle’s 4th Birthday!

This is a bit belated, but better late than never!

Noelle had a couple small celebrations to bring in her 4th year.  The first one was on the actual day of her birthday, which fell on a Tuesday this year.  I took the day off from work, and kept her home from school.  I was trying to think of what to do with her.  I considered Knott’s Berry Farm (we’ve never been and thought Camp Snoopy sounded like it might be fun for her), or Adventure City (another small Orange County amusement park, but when I looked it up I discovered it was closed that day).  What she really wanted to do though, was go to Chuck ‘e Cheese!  So that’s what we did!  Sam came along too because he took a half day.

Tuesday | January 6th, 2015


Opening up her birthday gifts – Shopkins!!!  (and a pink razor scooter)


Looking like such a big girl all ready to go on our little birthday adventure!

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Having a really great time already!

The place was pretty empty, so she got the place practically all to herself.  We earned most of the tickets playing skee-ball, and because I filled out an online survey we were able to hit our 100 ticket goal – she was ecstatic!



She redeemed the tickets for the prize she had her heart set on this whole time – a rainbow swirl lollipop!

By the time we were done playing at, it was already 3 pm and time to pick up Jaren from daycare.  No nap for her today, but she seemed to be in good spirits!  This turned out to be a bad idea later that night when family came over to celebrate with dinner and cake.  She may be four, but she still really needs her naps!


Daddy helped her blow out candles and open gifts

Saturday | January 10th, 2015

We had her actual birthday party, the following Saturday.  It was a pretty small, intimate affair consisting of her closest friends (Aliya, Leah, Mya, Selah, Luke, and Jude) and a bounce house.  We setup the bounce house in our driveway, catered mediterranean food from Doner G, bought an ice cream cake from Albertson’s, and let the kids play.  No real agenda and very casual!  It was pretty much a glorified playdate.  It was the perfect way to celebrate her day, and she had a lot of fun, especially since she doesn’t like a lot of fanfare.

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Thank you for coming, friends!



Jaren’s Dol | First Birthday

I previously blogged about my thought process behind planning Jaren’s dol. I wanted to keep things simple while still honoring some of the traditional elements of a Korean first birthday. This year we decided to host Jaren’s first birthday party at a park because we needed some form of entertainment for Noelle and her toddler friends. I couldn’t think of anything better than free reign of the great outdoors, with slides and swings to help them burn off that toddler energy.

I made sure to create a checklist, put everything in boxes, and load up the car the night before, so I wouldn’t forget anything the day of! I went to the park an hour early with a friend to setup while Sam stayed home with the kids, and got them ready to go. Since we decided to have the party from 12-2 pm, I needed to make sure that Jaren was well rested and got in his morning nap. Thankfully, his timing was impeccable that day and he napped from 10-11:30 am!

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I really wanted to make yarn letters out of his name for the head table, so I got some paper mache letters and spent an hour each night wrapping yarn around the letters while catching up on TV. The project requires a lot of hot glue! Ideally, these letters would’ve been standing, but they kept falling over because of the wind so I just laid them flat. They didn’t look too bad that way either.

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My very simple head table featured a two-tier cake, two vases filled with snacks, and tangerines, bananas, and grapes. Originally, I was going to make mini desserts like cake pops, rice krispy pops, brownie bites, and cupcakes to fill the table, but when I was shopping at Costco I saw a box of cheez-its and got this bright idea that it’d be less time consuming to just fill some vases with favorite children friendly snacks! I bought tubular vases from TJ Maxx Home Goods and filled one with cheez-its and the other with animal crackers. I didn’t see the point in putting in so much labor into desserts that people were unlikely to eat too much of, especially when there was already a huge cake. It was a good decision on my part because the kids happily gobbled up the snacks, and I still had a ton of cake left over!

I created the banner out of scrapbook paper I had leftover from my old scrapbooking days (you know, those days pre-kids when I actually had all the time in the world to scrapbook!). I created a template by folding a piece of stock paper in half width-wise, and created a triangle… then I used that template to trace and create multiple triangles out of a variety of scrapbooking paper. For the letters, I printed the words, then created a circle template using the top of a paper cup and cut out the letters into rounds and pasted it onto the triangles. I strung them with the remaining blue yarn I had left from my paper mache letters.

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We created an instagram banner by using twine, then clipping the pictures with mini clothespins. I wanted a lot more balloons than what we ended up with, but we ran out of helium… and I envisioned streamers going across the ceiling, but it was too high and we didn’t bring a ladder so we ended up not doing that. You know what they say about the best laid plans… Nonetheless, we still had fun and the guests couldn’t have cared less!

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 I created a photo book, and used it as a guestbook. Behind it are little jars so that guests could vote for the doljabi game. We actually had two separate voting games. One was for the traditional item – we chose to go with stethoscope (doctor), rice (abundant life), pencil (scholar), money (wealth), and ball (athlete). The other game is a family inside joke type thing. We have a fun competition around here regarding basketball. I’m a Lakers fan, and as you all know, Sam is a Laker Hater, but a huge Spurs fan… SO he insisted on creating a game out of it, making our kids choose between the Lakers, Spurs, and Clippers (our neutral team). Let’s just say he was not happy at all with the team our son chose!

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My talented friend made the cake, and we had another cake made completely out of rice cakes that we bought from the Korean supermarket.


For favors, I just put two mini play-dohs in each of the baggies, hole punched the bags, and tied them up with blue twine. I also had to have a chalkboard sign, which is now hanging up in his nursery. I spray-painted a white canvas board with chalkboard paint, then free handed the writing with chalkboard pens (I did create a rough draft on paper first to figure out how I wanted the layout to look and what I wanted it to say).

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Our dohl was from 12-2 pm, so we served the guests lunch. We catered Korean food for about 35 guests. On the menu were bulgogi (Korean marinated meat), chapchae (vermicelli noodles), kimbap (korean sushi rolls), kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), some egg battered beef and fish, other side dishes, and purple rice. For drinks, we just immersed canned soda, bottled water, and milk boxes (for the kids) in a cooler filled with ice.

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Now it’s time to play the doljabi game, and for the birthday boy to decide which item to choose! He is seriously considering his options. Look at him, with his hand on his knee and everything! Hmmmm… decisions decisions. I know, life’s tough kid.


He went for the rice – he’ll have an abundant life!


Then he got overwhelmed by all the fanfare, and burst into tears!


After a hug or two, all is well again… now time for the next round…


Come on buddy, are you going for the Lakers, Spurs, or Clippers? (He ended up choosing the Lakers, at Sam’s dismay… but it was HUGE WIN for me! *Happy Dance*)!

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We had a great time celebrating our little boy’s first birthday with our loving friends and family! We are so thankful for our village.

Photography: Jerome Park Photo
Cake: Nancy Lim

Planning Jaren’s Korean 1st Birthday (Dol)

A Doljanchi is a traditional Korean 1st birthday celebration that is a big deal in Korean culture.  What are the origins of the Doljanchi?  Historically, it was common in Korea for infants to die before their first year, so Korean’s wanted to celebrate babies who were able to make it to the one year mark.

Since my kids are both half korean, I wanted to make sure we honored this milestone birthday and celebrate their Korean cultural roots.  Doljanchi’s are usually way more elaborate than typical first birthdays.  Many of them are as elaborate as mini-weddings with fancy backdrops, professional balloon arches, centerpieces, favors, photographers, videographers, and the whole nine yards!  I didn’t want to go overboard with the planning, but I still wanted to maintain some of the traditional elements.  These are some of the things I thought about while planning his first birthday…

T H I N G S   T O   C O N S I D E R

Location: With Noelle’s Dol, I kept it at home because it was more convenient and we didn’t need much in the form of entertainment because there were only 2 other babies invited.  This time around, I had to consider making sure Noelle and her toddler friends could be preoccupied as well.  I also wanted a place that didn’t require much in terms of decor (both for my sanity and for cost savings).  I knew I did not want it indoors because then I’d have to consider tables, tablecloths, centerpieces, etc. Thus, we decided to have Jaren’s dol at a local park that has picnic tables and shade, but also has slides, swings, and a sandbox close by for the kids to play.  I will doctor up the area with lots of balloons and streamers.  Simple enough.

Time: I wanted the kids to be well rested, so I considered two different times.  It either had to be the hours between Jaren’s 1st and 2nd nap of the day, or after 4 pm.  At first I wanted it at 4 pm because I know *most* of my friends kids don’t nap after that, but my husband pointed out that in February, it gets dark a lot sooner and by 5 pm all daylight would be gone… so we decided to host the party from 12-2 pm.

Theme: I originally planned to do a “lil man mustache theme”, but the thought of tying every single element together with mustaches and other details could get expensive.  I really wanted to use what I had on hand to bring a party together, so I stuck with just a color theme – blue, light blue, and orange.  As long as these colors were present in the party, it should look nice and cohesive without stressing over an actual theme.

Food: This was easy – Korean food, and lots of it!  We are catering it from a local Korean supermarket just like we did for Noelle’s Dol.

DIY vs Buy

This was the BIG one for me.  I probably grew some white hairs before I even lifted a single finger just by analyzing whether it was worth the time to DIY or to just buy.

My practical side thought that DIY wasn’t necessarily going to be cheaper considering I’d have to buy the materials used to make stuff (since I’m not a regular crafter).  Then I thought about the extra supplies I’d end up with, likely never to be used again, taking extra space in my house.  All this was a pretty strong deterrent from me wanting to DIY.  One of my new year’s resolutions was to adopt a minimalist lifestyle (I was inspired by Kristin’s posts!), and this wasn’t quite in line with my vision for our life this year.

However, my other side wanted to put a personal touch to some of the party elements.  DIY IS cheaper sometimes, and in all honesty, a part of me wanted to be supermom.  In the end, I decided that I am NOT supermom, crafting is NOT my strong point, and I’m ok with that.  One of the first things I did was to avoid Pinterest at all costs… I didn’t even google for inspiration ideas because those picture perfect parties can be so overwhelming and cause unnecessary pressure.

In the end, I decided I had to give and take, and created a grid listing things I’d DIY, BUY, or NONE (things I could do without).

Dol Go-Im Towers: NONE.  These are a very popular element at Dohl’s, and the towers usually have the child’s Korean name on it, and/or their Chinese zodiac animal sign.  I considered making it, but buying bags and bags of beans and hot gluing them to a tower one by one didn’t appeal to me at all.  They sell these on Etsy too, but at ~$75 per tower plus shipping… I said no thanks.

Dol PosterBoard: NONE.  At Dol’s, it is tradition to play a game where the child chooses one of several items, each symbolizing something different.  To go along with this game, many people have a big poster board created with their child’s face and name, along with the 5-8 selections on the bottom… then the guests will place their vote for which element they think the child will choose.  I did one for Noelle, but hers has been sitting in the closet catching dust ever since the party, so with Jaren’s dol I plan to just frame a blown-up picture of him instead.

Cake: OUTSOURCE.  I did consider making a multi-tier cake by myself, but just the thought stressed me out so I decided against it.  I don’t even own cake pans.  My friend does beautiful, elaborate, professional cakes so she is making the cake for us.  The cake is going to be the centerpiece of the head table so I wanted to make sure it stood out.

Photography: OUTSOURCE.  I know I’m going to have my hands full with both kids, so there was no way I’d be able to take quality pictures.  I have several professional photographer friends, so I hired one of them to take pictures for us.

Desserts: DIY.  To supplement the cake, I’m going to make cake pops, rice crispy pops, and brownies.

Birthday Banner: DIY.  I have some leftover scrapbooking paper from my pre-kid days that I used, and some leftover twine from a baby shower I hosted.  No extra supplies needed so I was willing to take this one!

Paper Mache Name: DIY.  This is my one “labor of love” element that is taking me some time to do.  I bought paper mache letters and yarn from Joann’s and am making a yarn-wrapped letters of his name to display at the head table.  I plan on hanging his name in his nursery once this is all over and done with.

Chalkboard Stats: DIY.  This is pretty popular nowadays and I really wanted to make my own to give it a personal touch.  It’s not finished, so depending on how it turns out I may end up outsourcing it!  I already sprayed my canvas with chalkboard spray and am excited to get my craft on with this.  This is also another “keeper project” – I plan to hang this up in his nursery once all is said and done.

The few things that I did choose to DIY all lend itself to being used again and again, so I didn’t mind taking those projects on.  It kills thinking about the time spent creating something that will only be used once, so I nixed those things.  Now you probably know more than you ever cared to know about the inner workings of my mind!  I didn’t want to burn myself out planning the party, but I also want it to be fun for those who attend.  Fun to me = good food, good friends, and good entertainment.  Everything else is just the icing on the cake.

Noelle’s Dol | 1st Birthday!

Long overdue, but here are the highlights from Noelle’s 1st Birthday… my super talented friend took all these photos, and my other super talented friend made the amazing cake!

I tried to keep Noelle’s birthday party lively + fun, but simple at the same time.  We decided to do an UP! themed Dol at home.  It’s one of my favorite Pixar movies, the wife of Carl is named “Ellie”, and I figured it would be doable with lots of balloons and bright colors everywhere.  Not to mention Noellie is in a huge balls and balloons phase.  We also had all our guests dress up in UP! appropriate attire.  Everyone looked great in their suspenders, ties, and cute party dresses.

The head table – nothing too fancy.

What do you think she chose?

At the time, she had just discovered her nose.  😛

Now she can point out her ears, head, knees, nose, eyes, and belly button.

Hello, sweet girl!  She was in such good spirits that day… she must’ve known it was her birthday.

Sharing a moment

This is why I call her my “pouty face”

Drooly face

She chose the pencil!  Maybe she’ll be a future novelist…

Her buddies – Nathan and Selah~

Photography: Jim Kang Photography
Doljabi Board: Dohl Posters & More
Decor: Oriental Trading Co. and Party City
Food: Catered from Zion Market
Cake: the super talented Nancy Lim