2012 Halloween Party

It’s almost a week after Halloween, but because we just trick-or-treated here on Monday it really doesn’t feel like it.  In any case, I wanted to share some photos from this year’s Halloween party with you all.  With Hurricane Sandy on the horizon just days before the party, I wasn’t sure if we’d even be able to pull the party off or if friends would be able to safely get here to celebrate.  Luckily, things worked out.  I really like the way everything turned out, but I love that we were able to spend the day safe, warm, and dry celebrating with our friends.

For a long time (since before last Halloween even), I’d been planning on a candy corn themed Halloween party.  I had no shortage of ideas, and I even have Pinterest board devoted to it.

Then, the weekend before Halloween, I came across this adorable (and free!) Halloween printable set designed by Stephanie Creekmur for Pizzazzerie. I’ve always been a fan of traditional black and orange for Halloween.  I’ve also always loved accenting with lime and purple, so I just fell in love with this set and I knew I HAD TO change my theme.
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What a Hoot!

Owls seem to be everywhere this fall, and they really are perfect for the season.  A good friend of mine, Erin, recently hosted an owl themed birthday party for her daughters who were turning three and five, and it was a hoot!

Erin’s a girl after my own heart, and she really got into planning the party. (“I’ve discovered Pinterest!” she told me.)  I LOVE all the adorable and handmade owl elements she included in the party and Erin was kind enough to allow me to share them here with you all. Read more [+]

Blame Chuck Bass

One night a few weeks ago while Andy was away I stayed up late watching TV (something I rarely do).  I caught an episode of Gossip Girl on some channel I didn’t even know we had.  Big mistake.  I’m normally not a TV watcher.  I just have  had other things I’d rather do…  Well, the next day I realized I could stream all the back episodes of Gossip Girl on Netflix, oops! Can you guess what I’ve been doing everyday during naptime for the past two weeks?  I remember friends I taught with talking about how they watched the show like five years ago, I guess I’m a little behind.  In any case, I’m embarrassed to admit that my recent slacking on blog posts is because I can’t get enough of this silly show! The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

I was honest, now it’s your turn. Do you have a favorite guilty pleasure TV show you can’t get enough of (no matter how many hours you waste watching it)?

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream

 

July is National Ice Cream Month and last week Lauren and I hosted our “2nd Annual I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream Party.”  We provided the ice cream and we asked our friends to each bring their favorite topping to share. Read more [+]

A Berry Special Birthday Party

I knew even before Lauren’s first birthday that I wanted to have her second birthday at Donaldson Farms.  We all love the farm and during the summer we’re there at least once a week to buy fresh produce.  Lauren’s birthday being in June meant that we’d be able to have a strawberry picking party and that seemed like a perfect idea to us.

Knowing your party’s location and general theme a year in advance gives you a lot of time to brainstorm and plan. My overall vision was “farm-chic.” I used red and white gingham, Ball jars, and galvanized metal accents-easy and cute! We booked the party in early spring and sent the invitations in the beginning of May.

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Strawberry Sneak Peak!

Lauren’s second birthday and our celebration has now come and gone! I’m sad that it’s over, but we had a great time and it was a day I’m sure we’ll never forget.  I’m thrilled with how wonderfully everything came out and I can’t wait to share all the photos and details with you.  Speaking of photos we took over 300, so I have quite a bit of sorting and editing to do before I get my full post up.  Hopefully it will come a little later in this busy week.  Until then here are a couple of sneak peaks!

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Strawberry 2nd Birthday Party Preview

So one of the things that’s been keeping me busy (and not blogging) lately has been planning Lauren’s second birthday.  I can’t believe in just a few days my baby girl will be two!  This second year of her life has gone by so fast.  I wish I could make time slow down.  She is growing and learning everyday.  Andy and I continue to enjoy every second with her, and she constantly amazes (and exhausts) us.

Lauren’s birthday party is this Saturday, and I can’t wait to get everything set up.  We’re hosting it at our favorite local farm and Lauren along with 20 of her closest 2-year-old friends will spend the afternoon going on a hayride, picking strawberries, and playing with farm animals.

I don’t want to give too many of the details of what I have planned away, but if you’d like a preview you should check out my “Strawberry Theme” Pinterest board.  (I’ve been collecting and “pinning” ideas for months.)

I’d better get back to last-minute party prepping now.  I have tablecloths to iron, favors to finish, and cookies to bake. Wish me luck!

Happy Anniversary

Can you believe it’s been a year since the “Royal Wedding” captivated us all?

I know I was up early to watch and bake scones.  A little later in the morning, Lauren and I invited our friends over for tea and hosted a “Royal Wedding Playdate.”

Of course, I had fun preparing and setting up.  HWTM’s printables matched perfectly with my cobalt blue tea set and dishes.

Royal Tea Tags

The babies had fun too! Take a look at how the playroom looked afterwards.

Lauren and I are so blessed and grateful to have friends to make such fun memories with.  Happy Friday everyone!

Post Party Reflections & Party Planning Tips

Lauren’s first birthday party last year, was my first really big party.  It was a lot of work, but it definitely got me hooked on planning and styling parties.  You’d think that each subsequent party would become easier to pull off, and in some ways they have, but at the same time they each seem to have their own challenges (like say a blizzard resulting in no electricity).  There are a few things I’ve learned from my own experience that I think are helpful.

1. Get Organized

It’s no secret.  I love organizing and being organized.  So the first thing I do when I start planning a party is set up my “party planning notebook.” Like the teacher that I am, I use a three-ring binder to corral all my ideas, plans, and lists.

To be organized you have to KEEP IT ALL TOGETHER.  Everything party related is in one place which saves time and eliminates clutter.  (This is also especially helpful on shopping trips or when out running errands.) I put a copy of the invitation on the cover and I use dividers to breakdown the different aspects of planning (Guest List, Menu, Set-Up/Decor, To-Do List, Shopping Lists).  A pouch in the front of the binder holds the essentials: Post-Its, a tiny tape measure, fabric samples, and of course pencils.  Page protectors in the back can hold extra labels, craft store coupons and other party supplies.

2. Make a Plan & a Schedule (ahead of time)

I’ve also learned that I really love logistics.  I love making and having a plan.  Like being organized, it helps me to feel in control and avoid feeling overwhelmed.  When it comes to party set-up, think about where things will go and which serving pieces you’ll use.  Do a trial run well in advance of the party to make sure everything fits and looks the way you imagined.  Then take pictures to help you remember. Time goes really fast on party day and you’ll be glad you did.  A detailed set of instructions for day-off tasks is also helpful when you have other people helping you out.

Here’s a page of set-up instruction from the Rock Around the Clock Party.  I included pictures to show how tables should be set up.

For me planning also often means creating a timeline of things that need to be done in the weeks, days, and hours prior to the party.  Putting it down on paper relieves stress and helps ensure no detail is left out.

3. Confirm EVERYTHING

I’m proud to say I did not learn this lesson the hard way. :) Bakeries, florists, and other businesses get busy.  Orders can easily be misread or misplaced.  First, keep a record of who you worked with when placing the order as well as the specific order details.  Then, always play it safe and TAKE IT UPON YOURSELF to call and confirm the DETAILS of anything your order for a party.  Had I not made confirmation calls in advance of the last party we would not have had a cake and we would have a had a birthday girl leaving the spa way too early.  A few quick phone calls saved me lots of stress on party day.

4. Be polite

I’m not trying to sound like your mother.  This really goes along with #3.  In the instances where things were on the wrong track with party vendors, I kept my cool and tried to be kind and understanding.  People are always much more willing to work with you that way.  My polite attitude really paid off when it came to the day spa we sent my mother-in-law to.  They ended up giving her a complementary massage to make up for their initial booking error.  Not only was my plan saved, but Debbie got some much deserved extra pampering!

A bit more relfection…

While it didn’t take me long to realize that I love planning and party set up, it has taken me a few parties to realize that I don’t love (personally) doing some aspects of parties quite as much.

I love to plan the perfect menu, and ordinarily, I do love to cook and bake, but on party day having to do too much of that really stresses me out.  In a perfect world I’d love to hire a caterer to do the food at all my parties.  Until I can afford to do that, I’m working on simple menus that contain at least some make-ahead dishes.

Photography is another area where I’d really love to call in a professional.  While we’re lucky enough to own a great camera, carefully photographing all the little details that make a party special (and the party fun itself) is often something that gets done hastily, or not at all.  There are aspects from all my parties that we haven’t gotten great photos of or that we’ve forgotten to take pictures of altogether.  It’s always disappointing, but it’s motivation to work on my photography skills.  If time (and budgets) allow I’d like to look into hiring a photographer for Lauren’s next birthday party.

That being said, if any caterers or photographers are reading this and want to work out some type of trade-off let me know.

Help me out.  What are your tips for planning and pulling off parties?

 

Rock & Roll Punch

I’ve always really loved a good party punch.  I knew I wanted to serve up a tasty one at my mother-in-law’s Rock Around the Clock Surprise Birthday Party.  I really LOVE what I came up with.  Contrary to the name, the punch is non-alcoholic, but the addition of vodka, rum, or even a rose wine would make for an even more “fun” beverage.

Rock & Roll Punch

1 pint strawberries, sliced or 1 jar maraschino cherries (I used fresh strawberries)

1 orange, sliced

16 ounces ginger ale

1 can Hawaiian Punch

1 46-ounce can pineapple juice

1 2-liter ginger ale

Prepare ice ring ahead of time. Place sliced strawberries, or cherries, and oranges in the bottom of a Bundt pan. Pour ginger ale over the fruit and freeze 6-8 hours or overnight

Pour Hawaiian Punch and pineapple juice into punch bowl. Remove ice ring from Bundt pan and carefully float on top.

Just before serving, slowly add remaining ginger ale to punch.

***

The quantities might not seem like a lot, they didn’t to me at first, but this recipe really does make a ton.  You could also serve this beverage from a pitcher or one of the many drink dispensers popular right now.  Instead of making an ice ring, place strawberry slices or individual cherries in the wells of an ice cube tray, fill with ginger ale and freeze.  If desired, freeze and float orange slices as well for extra flavor.

And a special thanks to Andy’s cousin, Missy, and my sister-in-law, Stephanie, for mixing up the punch for me at the party! It was easy, right ladies?