Posts Tagged ‘party planning’

Top 6 Websites For Party Planning

Friday, October 5th, 2012

top 6 websites for party planning

I kind of like parties. (“Kind of” is kind of an understatement.) I like planning them, I like hosting them, I like cooking and baking and decorating for them. I really like searching for the perfect details for months longer than is technically necessary but is a great way to make the fun last longer. I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect white balloons for weeks now to turn my dining room into an arctic wonderland at Caroline’s birthday and I’ve finally narrowed my search down. Here are my top 6 websites for party planning when I’m at home watching Glee:

1. Oriental Trading Company -I’ve ordered everything from rainbow lollipops to a 4 foot T-Rex from OTC and I’ve loved every purchase. It’s sort of a one-stop-shop, especially if you’re throwing a kid’s party. You can search by holiday or theme, and it includes everything from stickers and glow necklaces to wedding supplies. Sign up for their newsletter or catalog and you’ll get discount codes and free shipping fairly regularly.

2. Bake it Pretty – A fantastic site to make your dessert table gorgeous. I’m obsessed with their cupcake toppers and selection of sprinkles. They have food coloring to make any color frosting you can imagine (including a kit to make those awesome rainbow cakes that are all over Pinterest) and paper goods and chocolate molds too. Prices are reasonable and you can get discounts by signing up for their newsletter.

3. Etsy – Obviously. Need invitations? A Happy Birthday banner? One hundred tiny paper butterflies? A custom onesie? Your wish is pretty much their command. If you can’t find exactly what you want by searching (be specific or you’ll get WAY too many results) find a shop with a style you like and see if they take custom orders. I cannot wait to show you the cupcake toppers I ordered for Caroline’s 2nd birthday. Prices range from extremely affordable to WHOA WHO DOES THAT? but I love getting to know and supporting handmade.

4. Save-on-Crafts -I found Save-on through a Pinterest link that said “Like Oriental Trading for adults!” and it’s true. Very popular among the crazy enthusiastic bride sector, they have TONS of really over the top stuff mixed in with essentials like glass vases and glitter at discount prices. Their shipping isn’t cheap (it’s hard to get cheap shipping on 5 foot tall pre-lit birch trees) but it is fast. Invest in reusable pieces – apothecary jars are good for any type of party, chalkboard markers last a while – and save your extra dollars to pay someone to clean up afterward.

5. Amazon – Search for ANYTHING on Amazon and you’ll probably find it. I’ve bought balloons, costumes, gifts, favors, food, tablecloths and books for various parties at really great prices. I have an Amazon Prime account that gets me free 2-day shipping for last minute stuff (there is ALWAYS last minute stuff). p.s. It doesn’t hurt to double check Amazon against OTC prices. I’ve found identical items are sometimes MUCH cheaper on one of those sites compared to the other.

6. Shop Sweet Lulu – Adorable packaging and decorating supplies (paper straws, vintage-style popcorn boxes, milk bottles) in bright and pastel colors. Their blog is also a fantastic place for inspiration, as long as you don’t mind feeling slightly inferior to some REALLY amazing planners.

What am I missing? Tell me so I can go shop there immediately – only 2 months and 10 days until Caroline’s 2nd birthday!

Evan’s Dinosaur Birthday

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

This post contains affiliate links.

I asked Evan want kind of party he wanted for his 3rd birthday and he said “Dinosaurs”. I told him he could have anything he wanted – trucks, trains, pirates, diggers, ANYTHING – and he said “Dinosaurs”. So we went with a dinosaur birthday. It ended up being an excellent and fun birthday theme.


Dinosaur Birthday

Dinosaur Birthday

Dinosaur Birthday

Dinosaur Birthday

Dinosaur Birthday

Dinosaur Birthday

It seems that no matter how much I try to stick to a color scheme I always end up with ALL THE COLORS. But since according to Dino Dan the dinosaurs WERE all the colors I figured I was safe as long as I toned it down with some natural accents. I got lots of moss, fake leaves, and branches from places like the craft store and the dollar store. All the tablecloths are cut from one big roll of burlap I bought in the garden department at Lowes. I made a zillion dinosaur “terrariums” (an idea I got from Mandy) with a bag of garden rocks (also from Lowes – $5 and I barely used 1/10th of them!) moss and tiny dinos left over from the favor boxes. The backdrop to the food table is two rolls of cork I bought at JoAnn’s. I cut every triangle pennant by hand with pinking sheers and printed the banners on my little printer.

For food, I had three sections: carnivores, herbivores and dessertivores. I thought I was pretty cute and clever, until I started looking at dino party supplies on Etsy and saw I was DEFINITELY not the first person to come up with “dessertivores”. It was still cute.

Menu:

Dinosaur shaped sandwiches (PB&J and cucumber)
Dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets
Mini hot dogs
Mozzarella sticks
Fruit
Individual hummus and veggie cups

Ice Age punch (blue punch with tiny dinos frozen into ice cubes floating in it)
Juice for the kiddos

Dessert Menu:

Brownies
Fossil cookies (I made mine with almonds)
Cereal bar “bones”
No-bake nest cookies (I did peanut butter & chocolate)
Dirt pudding cups (chocolate pudding & crushes Oreos)
Dinosaur shortbread cookies with royal icing
White wedding cupcakes with cream cheese cake batter frosting
Dino fruit snacks and candy eggs

And an AMAZING cake made by my friend Heather (I HIGHLY recommend her if you’re in the Eastern CT area and would be happy to put you in touch with her)

Since Evan and his friends are all old enough now for games and activities but the thought of trying to wrangle 25 kids into organized activities makes me break out in hives I planned lots of free-play fun.

We filled our old kiddie pool with sand for a fossil dig and hid tons of green eggs filled with stickers and candy for a dinosaur egg hunt. I also ordered a couple of inexpensive dinosaur coloring books from Amazon and dinosaur shaped crayons for a quiet, inside activity.

A few more details:

I saw dino party hats on Pinterest but didn’t really have enough ambition to make them from scratch. Just a few days before the party Evan said he NEEDED party hats so I dragged last year’s 2nd birthday party hats from Target out of my paper goods storage box and turned them into dino hats. It was really easy – they’re folded together with a tab, not glue or tape, so I just opened them flat, cut a piece of colored paper into a “spine”, cut a slot in the spine for the tab and reassembled with a little tape to reinforce it. I did a terrible job of explaining that, but trust me – if you take a look at a store-bought party hat you will definitely see how easy this is.

Between the hats and the masks we had quite a few tiny dinosaurs terrorizing the party.

My friend Amanda mailed me these leggings 2 seconds after I said we were doing a dinosaur party. So perfect!

Brilliant idea I stole from my friend Cheri – Take’n’toss cups for all the kids. No worries about juice or punch spills on my floors and they’re cheap enough to toss out if they get ruined.

Adorable invitations designed by the very talented Denae at New Mom Survival Adventure and printed (as rounded-corner post cards) by Overnight Prints – an idea I got from Tam.

I think that’s everything! Scroll to the bottom of this post for links to where I got stuff and as always let me know if you have any questions. I’m more than happy to share and info!

OK, just a few more pictures (the not awesome ones were taken by me)…

Resources and Sources:

Pinterest party board
for inspiration
Template for straw flags
Custom stamp from Tickled Pink Paper + Ink
Paper straws & favor supplies from In The Clear
Evan’s dino shirt – Gymboree
Photography by Open Shutter (Website)

Dinosaur stickers
– Amazon
Dinosaur cookie cutters – Amazon
Dinosaur sandwich cutter – Amazon
Dinosaur coloring books – Amazon
Melissa & Doug dinosaur stamps – Amazon
Dinosaur cupcake wrappers & toppers – Amazon
Dinosaur banner (I disassembled half to put on my cork backdrop) – Amazon
Dinosaur skeletons for fossil dig – Amazon and Oriental Trading (cheaper from Amazon)
Dinosaur masks – Oriental Trading Company
Dinosaur crayons – Oriental Trading Company
Dinosaur candies – Oriental Trading Company
Inflatable dinosaurs – Oriental Trading Company
Giant inflatable T-Rex – Amazon
Brown paper bags – Oriental Trading Company

Let me know if you see anything I missed or forgot to link!

(Oh and in case you are confused compared to previous party set-ups, we rearranged the house a few weeks ago and flipped the dining/family rooms. I was worried it wouldn’t be a good for the party but it was great! With the new set-up – and the patio – I have tons of space to invite even more people next time.)

Thank you to everyone who came and made our day so special!

Caroline’s First Birthday: Good Ideas

Friday, December 16th, 2011

This feels a little bit self congratulatory (especially since the party hasn’t even HAPPENED yet, so I have no proof these things actually WERE good ideas) but I am pretty excited about some of the stuff I’ve put together. This is the 4th party I’ve thrown since I discovered how much I LOVE hosting, and I’m finally getting the hang of it. And by “getting the hang of it” I mean “not spending a zillion dollars on unnecessary crap” and “make sure the guests have fun instead of just making the pictures look good”. So here are a few of the details I think are worth explaining a little more in depth than the coming soon post-party picture post.

DIY lace paper

A fancy hole punch can make regular paper look expensive. I bought this Martha Stewart edge punch at Michael’s with a 50% off coupon I tore out of a magazine. I’ve had it in a drawer for months and has started to think it was a dumb purchase, but it ended up being PERFECT for Caroline’s invitations. Then I carried the pattern over to the signs for the cocoa bar, food labels, cocktail recipes and the favor bags. One $10 box of blank invites and one package of white cardstock was the only other cost. There are tons of patterns that would be cute for other party themes, but the lace worked nicely with my snowflake decorations.

Party favors

I’ve spent a lot of dough (PUNNY!) on stupid crappy plastic party favors in the past, but I’m really excited about this idea. I made two double batches – one pink, one blue – of sparkle play dough (using this recipe I found on Pinterest), divided each color up into 10 smallish balls, popped them in sandwich bags and stapled on a label. It worked out to pennies per favor and I think they kids will really like it. I also made a triple batch of plain white glitter play dough I’m going to have out with a bunch of plastic cookie cutters for the kids to play with at the party. They’re all going to be COVERED in glitter but I figure then they’ll just match my theme better.

Christmas tree turned into a Caroline tree!

Twinkle picture in action

I figured since the Christmas tree was already prominently featured as part of our decor (because it is a GIANT TREE covered in lights in the middle of the room where we have parties) I should make it more Caroliney for her birthday. I am very conscious of the “My birthday never felt special because it was too close to Christmas” problem EVERYONE I MET told me about when I was pregnant. I dreaded telling people I was due December 26th because they always told me about their mother/brother/cousin/dog who was born that week and has hated it their whole life. My attempt to prevent that feeling in Caroline is why we are having this party at all, so I’m doing my best o make the day ALL ABOUT HER. But really, photos + clothespins on the tree is a cute idea with ANY photos.

Which reminds me I made this:

I crack myself up.

 

DIY Pull String Pinata

I think this is the project I am most excited about. Ever since I saw Young House Love’s party post about their daughter’s 1st birthday I’ve been dying to try making my own pull-string pinata. The idea is a one year old is too young to smack a pinata with a stick (and also hello December birthday in New England, we’re INSIDE, maybe giving kids bats to swing isn’t the best idea) put they can pull a ribbon and have the treats fall out. To make the base, I followed their tutorial here. My original concept was a giant snowball or snowflake but I like how this ended up even better. I just folded coffee filters in half and glued them around with hot glue, overlapping layers.

Close up of the coffee filter petals

My last good idea isn’t so much a really good idea as just a “Why didn’t someone TELL me that before?!” I bought a small glass pitcher at Goodwill to put the cream of coconut in for my grown-up drinks. I figured no one could identify white stuff in a glass pitcher as cream of coconut, so I was just going to write on the glass with a black sharpie and it would be my cream of coconut container FOREVER. But it turns out magic eraser takes permanent marker off of glass super easily.

p.s. I have terrible handwriting

It also worked on clear plastic, which is perfect for my dipping sauces. Regular dry erase would get smudges and illegible as soon as it got dripped on/touched but I tried smudging the sharpie and I can’t.

I’ll try to have a full party recap up on Monday, unless I am so exhausted I end up sleeping straight through Sunday. It’s entirely possible.

Thirty Hand Made Days

Evan’s Second Birthday: Food

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Even though I spend the majority of my pre-party planning on crafts and decorations, I spend 75% of my money and day-of preparations on food. I love food. Food is the reason I have parties at all.

Here’s an overview:


1. Mini-cupcakes
2. Marshmallow lollipop
3. Cucumber sandwiches
4. Mini quiches
5.Swedish meatballs
6. Mini doughnut cookies
7. Hand-made chocolate truffles made by and shipped from my friend Erin
8. Caprese salad sticks
9. Fruit salad
10. Veggie plate
11. Cheese and cracker plate
12. CAKE

Now here’s the deets:

Leftover cake batter (because I had to TRIPLE the recipe to have enough for the cake but only needed a little bit of that 3rd batch) turned into mini cupcakes in polka dot wrappers topped with peanut M&M’s on a cake stand from BJ’s.

I came up with these on Thursday morning when I found marshmallows on sale at Target. I stuck them on sticks and dipped them in colored melting chocolate and sprinkles. The little stands are Styrofoam balls cut in half and wrapped in tissue paper. They were SO EASY and delicious and popular with the kids.

The cucumber sandwiches were the only thing we ran out of. It’s just Wonder Bread with garden veggie flavored cheese spread and cucumbers, but they are SO DELICIOUS. And I even used the secretly whole wheat white bread to make them a little healthier. The mini quiches are store-bought and my absolute favorite party food in the world. They have been since I was about 12, when I decided eating mini quiches automatically made me look both older and classier.

My mom used her grandma’s recipe to make Swedish meatballs and I used my awesome crafting skills to glue felt circles to colored toothpicks to make them fancy. One of us worked a lot harder than the other.

My friend Kimberly sent me a link to these a couple weeks ago when I mentioned I was looking for round food and I fell in love with them. I actually baked and decorated them last weekend and stuck them in the freezer. They defrosted beautifully and were both adorable and delicious.

This idea came from Amy at Soup or Salad Blog – tomatoes, piece of basil and cheese. I just picked up the little mozzarella balls from the salad bar at the grocery store and made my aunt assemble them for me. The cute little stand was from last year’s birthday party!

Even all my fruit was round, thanks to my mom’s mad melon balling skillz. Cantaloupe. watermelon, red grapes, green grapes, blueberries and black berries. You can also see the corner of my round veggie tray – cucumber, carrots and radishes cut into circles.

I didn’t get a close up of the truffles Erin made, but there were extremely yummy and also adorable – she somehow put colored polka dots into the coating. She did vanilla and strawberry for the kids and then orange liquor and Kahlua for the grown-ups. I ate the leftovers for lunch. And dinner.

And finally, my cake:

It is not as pretty as I had imagined. It also doesn’t have the precise color coordinated stripes of dots I had planned on before I realized the “20-25 minutes” it took to bake this batter as cupcakes was more like 50-60 minutes in large cake pans in my crappy oven. Then I ran out of batter and when I tried to make more I was a cup of sugar short. Luckily, my run to the grocery store didn’t end up ruining anything besides my plans to make the frosting perfectly smooth and delicately place all my jelly beans in exact lines.

You know who cared about the uneven frosting and the random dots? NO ONE. Not a single person, including me, cared that the cake didn’t look like it was from a professional baker.

The main reason is because it was DELICIOUS.

I ended up making it all from scratch, using recipes from I Am Baker for everything. The cake is white cake with buttercream frosting and lemon curd filling (the recipes are in those posts, but you’ll have to scroll for them – which shouldn’t be too much of a hardship because her cakes are GORGEOUS). When I test drove the cake as cupcakes last weekend they were perfect. When I tried to make it as cake it stuck to the pan and came out a little dry, but honestly, it was such an easy recipe I’m sure that was baker-error and I can do better next time. I kept apologizing for the dryness, but I may have been the only person who was bothered by it.

The frosting is like store-bought cake frosting, which I love but no one else does. It is very sweet, but the lemon curd filling tempered the sweetness. The filling was DELICIOUS. I should have cut each cake layer in half and done three layers of filling in each tier, just to get more lemon curd into each slice. I may have put lemon curd on toast for breakfast today. And lunch. And dinner.

2 year olds can blow out their own candles

The number of sweets in my house (all the baked goods combined with all the candy from the decorations) is EPIC. I need to have another party just to get rid of the food from my first party. But I heard from all the guests that despite the sugar overload their kids all slept REALLY well on Saturday night and spent all day Sunday talking about the “balloons!” and “ball pit!” at “Baby Evan’s party!” I call that a success. An extremely delicious success.

p.s. I need to add that NONE of the food would have gotten finished if not for my amazing family’s help. My mom and my dad and my aunt never batted an eyelash when I insisted they cut every slice of cheese into a circle or told them to ONLY use certain colors of jelly beans on the cake. They cut and slices and cooked and arranged so I could focus on my cake. Even E helped with the food when he wasn’t wrangling toddlers and babies. Thank you all SO MUCH for the help!

Evan’s Second Birthday: Decorations

Monday, April 11th, 2011

After Evan’s big fancy over-done 1st birthday last year I swore I wouldn’t be doing a major party again until he was well into elementary school. But as this year’s birthday approached it occurred to me that throwing the party had very little to do with him and everything to do with ME. I wanted to celebrate the day I gave birth to my baby, I wanted to hang out with all my friends, I wanted to make my house pretty, I wanted to eat a disgusting amount of cake.

So I threw another party.

(Edited to remove my address & phone number so you can’t crazy stalk me. I know you were planning on it.)

I made the invitations on my computer with an old graphics program I stole borrowed from my office job. Then I ordered them as matte photo prints from Snapfish using a coupon code. Total cost: $4.05

The biggest difference between throwing a first birthday party and throwing a second birthday party is that 2 year olds need to be entertained a lot more than 1 year olds. So I went with a play time theme featuring the three things Little Evan loves most in the world: bubbles, balls and balloons. Then I categorized all those things as “round” and ran with it. I ran like I was in the Boston Marathon being chased by rabid badgers on roller skates carrying flame throwers.

 

Dining Room

As usual, all the “tablecloths” are just yards of fabric from Joann’s. The ones on the main table are really 3 piece of fabric just laying there. I am too lazy to sew.

Entryway - please ignore one wonky circle in the banner. It's glitter paper and my sticker didn't stick

 

Living Room - I made the banners with scrapbook paper, my printer and salad bowls for circle tracing

Living Room

The ball pit is actually Little Evan’s birthday present from LAST year. We left it up in the living room for a few months but I eventually wanted my house back and put it away. He was REALLY excited to see it again and I’m sort of amazed it didn’t get popped considering how much fun was had in it.

I love this picture the most because you can see decorations in both rooms, the gorgeous colors, and the children having a great time

 

Blurry photos of other people's kids to protect privacy

A few decorating details:

I bought the bottles of bubbles at Michael’s ($3 for 6), cut scrapbook paper into strips and then printed the circle stickers I designed on sheets of label paper. I used a big hole puncher to cut them, stuck them on the paper and hot glued the paper around the bottles. Boom, party favors!

I bought a 50 balloon helium tank at BJ’s for $21 and my dad blew them all up for us. Some of the strings were long enough for the taller kids to grab, but Little Evan kept losing his so we made sure he always had them with him:

That's the shirt I made! The same fabric is on my headband and on the entry table.

My mom had the brilliant idea to anchor some of the balloons with the adorable polka dot chalk we found at Michael’s ($1 for 5 pieces) and send them home with the kids.

Adorable, right?

There are also lots of round candies, so I filled a bunch of glass containers with them at stuck them on the mantel – jelly beans, peanut M & M’s, gum balls and DumDums. I ordered the giant rainbow lollipops from Oriental Trading Company and used more of my label paper, graphics program, and giant hole punch to make the stickers. Then I raided my milk glass collection for vases.

Other stuff I got from Oriental Trading:

 

Party Lanterns (And they fold up, so they're reusable!)

Beach balls and mini beach balls - perfect sized for small hands and helped fill up the pit nicely. I *think* some of the kids took them home (which was the plan) but we still have tons. They were cheap.

And to round it all out (BA DUM CHING) I picked up flowers in the colors that matched my theme: yellow, orange, blue and green. I was very excited to find blue flowers – and NATURAL blue flowers at that!

You know what DIDN’T work out great? The bubble machine. It got sort of sticky during our pre-party trial run and didn’t make the huge number of bubbles it used to. I put it on the porch to avoid slippery floors but it made the floor out there slippery so I turned it off until the kids found it. I had imagined gorgeous photos of children and bubbles but didn’t get any at all. But when it WAS working (for about 10 minutes) the kids really liked it!

Actually, the kids liked all of it. Especially the birthday boy.

How can I help but give this kid the best parties I can?

I had intended to just do one post for the whole party but this is getting ridiculously long, so I’ll save food for tomorrow. Or maybe later today. It really is the best part – I went a little crazy on the theme. I also ended up making the cake, frosting and filling from scratch (recipes and links coming soon!) so I need to give it the attention it deserves. And if you come to my house I have some left over for you to try. Please, please come eat this cake.

I linked up at Tip Junkie – she’s got some amazing parties on her site!

Tip Junkie handmade projects