Ocean's Eleven Style Heist Birthday Party: Ideas, Printables, Games and More!

by Ed

Imagine your kid asks for one, seemingly simple and inexpensive, gift for their birthday and you can't find it anywhere. You search online and dive down link trails and find it unavailable. You browse Pinterest Boards that seem to hold promise, but nope - not there either. How far would you go to deliver this gift?

That was the scenario we faced when our son (a big fan of Heist movies like Ocean's 11, The Italian Job, etc) asked to have a Heist-themed party for his 11th birthday (see the connection forming here?). He knows we have a little cred around kids birthdays - these Spy and Minecraft parties, for example.  We had hosted a 'Mystery' party for our daughter's most recent birthday so we knew that there existed lots of pay-for options out there to buy and run ourselves. How hard could this be?

Turns out - pretty hard.  

The 'Heist' parties out there are all 'solve the crime and discover who committed the Heist' type affairs. We could not find a single "You are the thief committing the Heist" ones (possibly due to some moral issues around that theme). So we made one.

There is a reason Heist party kits are tough to come by. Like every real Heist movie, they are pretty complicated and rely on having some people on the inside and someone playing the unsuspecting 'Mark'.  

Our daughter got into character for this and we took a 'surveillance-style' photo of her looking nefarious.

Definition: Mark (slang) - an easily deceived person who is the target of a crime or caper

CAVEAT!  We ran this with a group of seven 10/11 year-old boys. It worked, but it was also high strung chaos and was far from the sauve Brad-Pitt-George-Clooney style Heists in the movies. It would not work with any age range younger than this. But as a side note, a Heist Party could totally work for Adults and Teenagers. I found that as we planned the steps - there were lots of parts where I thought, "This is cool - I would love to try this". 

CAVEAT #2! In the name of good fun, party guests will try to lie, steal, safe-crack, forge signatures and all-in-all engage in various things the legal world terms "Felonies". If this spins your personal moral compass or otherwise concerns you that your guests (kids) may develop a blurry sense of right and wrong as a result - this party may not be for you.

So, enough preamble.

Here's our plans, printables and ideas for an Ocean's Eleven Style Heist Birthday Party!


25+ Easy Recipes to Freeze When Chicken Breast is On Sale

by Robin

For years I've had this idea: create a go-to list of easy recipes that freeze well for later - organized by sale items at the grocery store.  Then, when something's on sale I could make multiple make-ahead meals to max out the savings - and make meal prep super fast on busy weeknights.  This would help us save a bundle of money and hours of time!  

This is the first post in a series I'm developing that will save you money on food and time on meal prep.  A home cook's dream come true?

As we've talked about in our series about saving money at the grocery store without coupons series - if you're patient and conscious of what's on special at your grocery store you can save tons of money.  The concept is simple: on a cyclical basis grocery stores rotate what is on sale.  By stocking up on sale items you can slash your budget.

This series takes it one step further - stocking up on what's on sale - and then with a super easy recipe - putting a few meals away in the freezer to be used later to speed up food prep.  Saving money and saving time!

This is the first in the "Easy Recipes to Freeze When ____ is on Sale" Series! (Ok - not the catchiest name - I'll admit.)  Today we've got Chicken Breast recipes... 


Old Canvas to New Art for a Teen Bedroom: "What Would Hermione Do?"

by Robin

I thought I was pretty darn sophisticated when I bought this Monet print back in university.  It was printed on CANVAS - which among college-aged kids back then meant you were clearly upper crust.  On the back of the print - in magic marker - the price of $49.95 is scrawled (so classy, no?).  I can only assume there was a 50% sticker somewhere else.  (And even THAT seems like a budget stretch for me back then.)

Whether I was being sentimental or cheap (both) - I have kept this canvas for all these years.  I am so pleased to be able to use it again and for such a fun project with my best girl!  This craft is easy - and has great impact.  Perfect for a kids bedroom or any space with a sense of fun.

My daughter is Hermione Granger personified. I remember chatting with her teachers in the schoolyard - as Charlotte walked by wearing the Gryffindor scarf that I'd knit for her and her brother.  The teachers shared my view: that scarf was perfect for her. She IS Hermione (minus the big, messy hair and bad teeth - that fans will recall - those features didn't make it to the screen).

My daughter is clever and loves books.  She's intolerant of rudeness, a defender of the innocent and a fierce friend.  Hermione, right?!

While we were looking around for inspiration for her new teenager bedroom we stumbled across this quote: "What would Hermione do?"  It felt exactly right to the both of us.

Friends, this phrase is a perfect touchstone for my girl - and maybe any teenage girl.  What would Hermione do?

  • Hermione wouldn't measure herself against the other girls' looks or status.  
  • She wouldn't hide her intellect to disapparate into a peer group.  (See what I did there?)
  • Even when others mocked her mission to help the house elves - she persevered.  
  • She would know when she was right and not let the boys make all the decisions.
  • And Hermione would push herself physically - even though she knew she wasn't athletically gifted.

THIS is the approach to surviving adolescence that I want for my daughter.

I love that she will wake up each day and this message will be the first message she'll read.  I also love that we're reusing this old canvas and creating something new and fresh together.

Here's how we took an old canvas and paint to create new artwork with a great message...