Saturday, July 31, 2010

Creative and FREE invitations that build the fun early on

You don't have to order fancy and expensive invitations to throw a WOW party.  These days email invites, especially for a casual party, are perfectly acceptable.  They are also easy, fast, free, and green!

When planning my invitations, I usually google the party theme for invitation wording ideas.  But this time, when googling "superhero invitation wording ideas," nothing fabulous appeared.  So my husband and I quickly worked with what we could remember about superheroes (the faster than a speeding bullet schtick) and had a blast coming up with the following wording.  It took less than 15 minutes and the result is super cute and fun:

What’s faster than a speeding bullet
More powerful than a locomotive
And able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?

Wait...scratch that and start again....

What’s faster than a keg stand
More powerful than the urge to down a beer when running (okay, walking) a 10k
And able to crawl from one pub to the next?


Please join us to celebrate Kari’s birthday
at BARC’s Annual 10K Pub Crawl**
Saturday, August 21st
10:30 am until we pass out

Let’s meet at Carlos’ Beer Garden at 10:30 to toast Kari before we begin our trek from bar to bar.
The theme this year is SUPERHEROES, so come dressed in your super best.
Bring your super men too!
For those unable to spend the day crawling with us,
please plan to meet us at the last bar, Sam’s Boat,
around 4:00 for an early dinner and cake.

Please RSVP to stacey so we know to look for you,
and in order to designate enough drivers for pick up.

**Aug 21 (Sat) The 10th Annual BARC PubCrawl; The theme has been decided for this year . . . “Superheroes”.  The start will be at 11 am at Carlos’s Beer Garden.  9 Bars, 7 miles, 97 degrees.  More info to come . . . please stay tuned . . .

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mulling Over Party Ideas

This week I have lots of parties on my mind.

Sarita and I made Monkey's pirate invites last night (part two- more on that later).  Next week we will do the wax seals.  They turned out so cute and were so easy, even with a couple of tea mishaps!

The 9-02-10 plans are in full swing.  Invites (over facebook) are out, food is planned, decor is planned, and entertainment is mostly planned.  I'm loving the facebook invite because people can comment and build the excitement.  The lead up to a party is so much fun.  LOVE the anticipation!  Can't wait to see what my Brenda outfit is going to be.  My amazingly talented closet guru is helping me create the perfect outfit from my existing wardrobe...and maybe a few key additional items.  If you don't have a closet guru, I highly recommend you get one.  Not just for a rockin' everyday wardrobe, but for those parties you can't wait to attend, but aren't sure what to wear!

One of my besties (wow, I just became one of those ladies who use the word besties- awesome) has a birthday coming up in only a few weeks.  We brainstormed ideas yesterday and due to a time conflict are back to the drawing board.  We had been planning to attend the upcoming 10K Pub Crawl, but realized that the day wouldn't work for us.  Bummer, because this year's theme is SUPERHEROES!  I had visions of cape running (ok, walking) dancing in my head.  If you aren't busy Aug 21st, you should try to make it.  It is so much fun.  I'm not part of BARC, but they are an awesome bunch of people and let anyone tag along on the pub crawl, even me!

I'm also on a quest to find a whole foods cake recipe that is quick, easy, and delicious.  Having a bake off in the next couple of weeks will make that feat absolutely delectable!

Finally- I am really excited about planning a theme around these awesome tie dye cupcakes:

How cool are those?  I'm thinking "Peace, Love, and Tie Dye" or "Rainbow Bright" for Earth Day this year.  Any other excuses (I mean ideas) for using these?  Sock 'em to me!  Me, I'll be perusing through ideas here:   The Hippie Handbook: How to Tie-Dye a T-Shirt, Flash a Peace Sign, and Other Essential Skills for the Carefree Life.  I love amazon's used books.  This one can be had for only a few bucks!  I'll be a real hippie in no time!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More on Timelines: 12 week versus 4 week planning

Why 25 steps?

The key to my system is the timeline.  Once in place, I don’t have to stress that I have forgotten something.  I have broken everything that needs to be done to plan a killer party into manageable, 15 minute steps. 

Some of the steps will take a little longer, like making the cake.  But most won’t.  When I write my week of timeline (more on that later) I break even the cake making into steps.  So, although I am doing more steps a week, I am keeping them short.

My timeline has 25 steps, not including the “week of” and “day of” timelines, and since I like to be thinking about parties year round, I plan parties almost 6 months in advance.  This may sound like way to much planning, but keep in mind that I am only planning 15 minutes a week.  Lots of the steps are just brainstorming sessions.

However, most people prefer to plan about 3 months in advance.  If that’s you, you will want to complete two timeline steps a week (see the 12 week timeline below).  Can you plan a great party in less time?  Absolutely!  The key is to follow the timeline and to not try to do too many steps at once.
Even when I have a last minute party come up, I try to focus on manageable steps.  You might do onestep daily if you have 4 weeks (see 4 week timeline below).  If you have less time than that, you could do 1 step in the morning and 1 step in the afternoon daily. 

I strongly believe that twenty-five 15 minute sessions are much more productive than an almost 7 hour session (that’s the amount of time you’ll spend on the 25 steps, cumulatively).  Parties are a creative venture, and your creative juices will flow much stronger if you allow yourself breaks and time to mull things over.

Make Your Calendar Work for YOU!

In this google age, one of my favorite things to do is to add these timeline steps to my google calendar- and set a yearly repeat and reminder.  In other words, when I add the steps for my daughter’s parties, I set my calendar to repeat every year on that date, and to send me an email reminder.  For parties that you will do every year (perhaps you always host Thanksgiving), it’s a good idea to map out the timeline once and make it work for you by making it automatic.  If you don’t use an electronic calendar, you can do the same thing on one of those perpetual birthday calendars- the ones with the dates but no year.

If you do use an electronic calendar, and decide to make your timeline steps yearly occurring events, I suggest you also set up an email reminder.  It’s just one extra click, and this ensures that your time won’t be wasted if you decide to start using a different calendar and aren’t regularly checking your electronic one.  For instance, I use google calendar right now.  But, being an over-zealous planner, I might decide at some point to use a different electronic calendar, or even to go back to paper.  With these email reminders set up, I will still receive an email a few days before (you can set your preference to a week before, the day before, etc.) it’s time for me to do a given step.  If at some point you change email address, all you have to do is go into the calendar and change the email address linked to it and you will still get all your reminders.

At this time, I have 3 recurring party timelines- one for each of my girls, and one for my annual Mother’s Day bash.  I have worked out a system so that I am only planning one at a time, which means I have had to tweak the timeline dates, but since I did it on my recurring calendar, I only had to figure out how to make them all work together once.  In other words, my girls’ birthdays are about 6 months apart, but my Mother’s Day party is only 3 months after one of the girls’ birthdays.  So, on my perpetual calendar, my timeline gives me 6 months to plan each girls birthday, but only 3 months to plan my MD party.  Clear as mud?  Take a look at the timelines.

12 Week Timeline
Week One:
_        Brainstorm theme   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Choose date/time   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
Week Two:
_        ­­­­­­­­­Choose Theme___________________
_        Brainstorm guest list   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
Week Three:
_        Brainstorm invitations   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Brainstorm favors   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
Week Four:
_        Brainstorm décor   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Brainstorm food/cake   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
Week Three:
_        Finalize guest list   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Send save the date, if needed   _________________
Week Four:
_        Plan invitations   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Order/gather invitation supplies   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
Week Five:
_        Plan favors   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Plan décor   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
Week Six:
_        Plan food/cake   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Make invitations   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
Week Seven:
_        Make invitations   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Address invitations   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
Week Eight:
_        Mail invitations       ­­­­­­­­­___________________ ****4 weeks before party****
Week Nine:
_        Gather favor/decor supplies   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Make favors   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Week Ten:
_        Make favors   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
Week 11:
_        Write a party week timeline (including day before and day of) ­­­­­­­­­___________
_        Make decor
Week 12:
_        Make cake   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Enjoy the party!!  ______________

4 Week Timeline
Week One:
_        Brainstorm theme   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Choose date/time   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        ­­­­­­­­­Choose Theme___________________
_        Brainstorm guest list   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Brainstorm invitations   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Brainstorm favors   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
Week Two:
_        Finalize guest list   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Send save the date, if needed   _________________
_        Plan invitations   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Order/gather invitation supplies   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Make invitations   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Address invitations   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Mail invitations       ­­­­­­­­­___________________ ****4 weeks before party****
Week Three:
_        Brainstorm décor   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Brainstorm food/cake   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Plan favors   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Plan décor   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Plan food/cake   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Write a party week timeline (including day before and day of) ­­­­­­­­­_____________
Week Four:
_        Gather favor/decor supplies   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Make favors   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Make decor
_        Make cake   ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_        Enjoy the party!!  ______________

Friday, July 23, 2010

Make Your Own Temporary Tattoos

After attending a fun dinosaur party, Monkey has decided she MUST have tattoos at her pirate party.  As I mentioned yesterday, I am over-budget on favors, so I decided to google it.  Isn't google amazing??? Remember when we had to go to the card catalog to find things out?? Thank you, Al Gore!

Anyhoo...I googled make your own temporary tattoos and found this great how-to.  I will have to do some more research into how much the temporary tattoo paper will be, and look into Henna paints.  But this is definitely a good trick to keep in my party planning arsenal.  It could be adapted for so many parties!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pirate Favors: Captain's Logs and DIY Pirate Patches

So...last week, I found some awesome pirate hats to use for favors.  They were on sale BOGO free, and on clearance to boot, so I got them for about $2.50 apiece (originally $19.99 apiece).  Not bad!  But..since my goal is $3 per favor, I am going to have to get creative with the other things...

To make matters trickier,  I found these adorable notebooks in the clearance bin at Michael's a couple of weeks ago and couldn't resist. I also found pirate foam stickers and used a 50% off coupon to get them for around $3. Those will double as decor and a way to personalize the notebooks.   I can throw the extra ones in the treasure chest as more loot. The books were a dollar apiece...which means...I am already over budget.

But considering how fun those hats are, and how cute these "Captain's Log" notebooks will be, I am ok with it.  The hat will serve as the container for the favors, and the inside of the notebooks will be a great place to stick my signature, "Thanks for coming to Monkey's 6th birthday party" labels.

And besides, 3 dollars was mighty ambitious anyway.  However, since we do tend to have a houseful of kids, I am going to try to make the rest of the favors with stuff we have.  AND to make it FUN, I plan to get the girls involved.  HINT: Since I am planning way ahead, I have plenty of time to get creative and go back to the drawing board without having to give up one some of my ideas or go way over budget.

So, I still need pirate eye patches.  And the ones Monkey picked out were almost $2 apiece.  What's a girl to do?  Google it, of course.  A quick "Make Your Own Pirate Eye Patches" brought up this awesome how-to. To make Monkey fall in love with these more than the ones see saw online, I plan to bring out the glitter paint and gems- what can girl resist that?

A true planner knows that half the fun is in planning all the details, and making these with my girls will be a great lead up to the party.

The moral of the story:  Plan ahead; plan well ahead.  But don't be afraid to veer from your plans when something serendipitous comes along.  And always leave a little wiggle room in the budget for those awesome finds you just can't pass up!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

FREE Gift Idea

Who has a birthday party coming up?  Head over to Vista Print and choose from an assortment of free products, including address labels (for a budding letter writer?), a photo flip book (for a relative?), or a tote bag (for a preschooler?) can upload your own photo or use theirs and print them for FREE- all you are responsible for is shipping!

I'm looking for the perfect picture of Squeaker to make a tote bag for her first day of preschool!  These would make great soccer gear bags, dance bags, etc.

Thanks, Collin!  If you haven't joined hip2save....seriously, what are you waiting for?

Make Your Own Invitations: Step One- Gather Your Supplies

On my to do list this week, for Monkey's party,  is gathering invite supplies.  Planning in 15 minutes means breaking projects into short to do items.  So...this week, all I have to do is make sure I have everything I need to make treasure map invitations, modeled after the treasure map Sara made for the girls' recent hunt.

When making invitations, I have two goals.  First, I like to make my own.  I like them to be unique and like no others.  Second, I like to use materials I already have around the house.

For my treasure map invites, I need to gather the following:
  • white paper
  • tea bags (for antiquing the paper)
  • thick and thin black sharpies
  • lighter for burning the edges
  • sealing wax
  • A or K seal
I don't have a seal, but I'm pretty sure someone I know does.  Since I have plenty of time to gather (I give myself 2 weeks to make invites, and the seal is the last step), I have time to send out emails to see if anyone already has one I can borrow.  And I know my mom has sealing wax because she's totally into that stuff.

See the beauty of doing things early, and a little at a time.  If all goes well, and I am certain it will, I'll find a seal and my invites with be made with me having to buy a thing!  What's more earth friendly and economical than that?

Now, who has a K or A seal? ;)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Art Party Idea: Discovery Paper Recycling Studio

This would be a really fun, hands on party. Personalize a box or expandable file, throw in the stationary the kids have made, and you have favors. It would also make a fun gift and is a great price right now!

Bonus: What a great way to get kids excited about recycling!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cake Planning: Get the Kids Involved!

For Monkey's pirate party, she and Sarita sat down and sketched out what she wanted. Sarita and I have been plugging cake balls for Monkey's next birthday party in lieu of cake. The size is the perfect serving for a little one, and they require no plates and forks which makes them green. I do, however, find the name unfortunate, so let's call them cake bites.

Monkey wasn't feeling it, and to get her excited about it, Sarita pulled out a piece of paper and started sketching these fun pirate bites. As Sarita incorporated Monkey's designs (like different eye colors) the guest of honor began to get excited. She even pulled out paper and started sketching her own version of a bear cake for Squeaker's upcoming bear hunt party. I mean, she's 5, so her attention wandered a bit.

Of course, we will also make a sheet cake for the adult guests and so we will have leftovers to eat in the middle of the night-admit it, we all have another piece of cake after the guests leave. And some of us store it in the freezer for months and nibble a little here and there. You know who you are...

For the sheet cake, we will most likely use a Wilton cake pan. These are so easy to do. If you can use a star tip, you can make awesome cakes using any of their pans.

To make our tiny little cake bites stand out and command attention, we plan to stick them into a pirate ship. No decision yet as to whether they will go in the sheet cake pirate ship or possibly one made out of cardboard. Cakes are such an easy way to add festivity and to double as decor.

Not only are cake bites the perfect size, they are really easy to make. Check out this blog for an detailed how to.

This is what I mean by planning your parties in 15 minutes. Planning the cake was on my to do list for the week, so we sketched for 15 minutes and had fun with it. That's all it takes. Those little bursts of time and inspiration add up.

Try this at home! Sit down with the guest of honor for your next party and sketch something- decor, food, invites. It makes planning all the more fun!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Save Money on Favors by Planning Ahead: More Pirate Finds!

One of the perks of planning your parties in advance is that you have plenty of time for great deals to fall into your lap!

For Monkey's pirate party, I am on the look out for a cute pirate outfit for her, as well as favors for her guests.

If you don't know about Hip2Save, you should really put it in your arsenal of deal finders! In her daily deals email today, Collin listed a great clearance sale at Costume Express where I found this adorable pirate hat on clearance for $4.99, down from $19.99. These would make fun favors and would serve as perfect photo props at the party! These are already on clearance for $4.99, but with their BOGO sale, I can get them for $2.50 apiece!

Here's how to find the best deals on those sites. First, put in your search. In my case, "pirate." Then, find where the website asks how you want to sort: "Sort By:" and sort by low price. This will allow you to quickly search for any great deals, without having to look through dozens of pages.

Last week, the cheapest pirate costume I found for Monkey was 24.99, and it wasn't pink, which is a real problem in our house. Today, on this site, I found this adorable PINK PIRATE costume for $14.99. And with the BOGO, I can add one for Squeaker for free. Woo hoo!

See how easy it is when you plan ahead?

You try it! Think about Halloween costumes or the next birthday theme and check out the website above, or just google your theme + clearance. Let me know if you find anything awesome!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pinot and Picasso Parties

These parties are so much fun, and so easy to put together! This was a follow up to our art camp for charity and we all had a blast.

First, you need to find someone to instruct. The instructor can easily find step by step instructions for whatever you choose to paint online. Anyone that will paint for Pinot will do! In this case, we roped Sarita into doing it. We each thanked her by bringing her a bottle of wine to take home.

The set up: Don't have several easels floating around your house? No problem! We made ours out of coolers with hand weights inside:

Throw over some drop cloths, prop up your canvas (we bought them in a 5 pack and used a 50% off coupon at Michaels), add a paper plate for mixing paints, a water cup for cleaning brushes, and a glass of wine. You are ready to paint your masterpiece!

Before the party, Sara painted a sample of what we would be creating, but this isn't necessary. You could just print a copy of your muse off the internet or buy a print.

Everyone took home their masterpiece. I'm sure they will all sell for mucho dinero someday!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

9-02-10 Party!

Du nu nu nu...
Du nu nu nu...

If you're a true, old school 90210 fan, the theme song just started playing in your head.

What could be more fun than a 90210 party full of nostalgia and Peach Pit fare on the day that Bridget pointed out to me-


Here's what I'm thinking so far
  • Peach Pit staples- cheeseburgers, fries, and of course PIE
  • Come as your fave 90120 look
  • Team Brenda vs. Team Kelly hairdo race- who's bigger and better??
  • Top 5 90210 episodes for viewing pleasure (to be pre-voted by guests)
  • Prizes for the best side burns, best in character, best playlist
  • Grafitti wall for writing best loved quotes and scene quips
  • Photo op station (perhaps I'll use my favorite photo booth guys)
More later....want an invite? Tell me what you envision!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How to Plan a Party in 15 Minutes A Week

I created this timeline to help keep myself from falling into that "storm before the calm" pre-party anxiety. I do better when I have a clear cut plan, and I know myself well enough to know that I buckle under pressure. So I like to stretch my planning out over months. Does that mean you can't plan a killer party in a shorter amount of time? Of course not! But I would suggest breaking it up into 15 minute increments.

My planning is 15 minutes weekly, but you could do 15 minutes daily if you wanted to plan in a shorter amount of time. The idea is to have a plan to follow so you don't freeze.

So, here's how I do it:

Party Timeline
_ Brainstorm theme ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Choose theme ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Choose date/time ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Brainstorm guest list ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Brainstorm invitations ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Brainstorm favors ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Brainstorm décor ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Brainstorm food/cake ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Finalize guest list ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Send save the date, if needed ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Plan invitations ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Order/gather invitation supplies ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Plan favors ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Plan décor ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Plan food/cake ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Make invitations ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Make invitations ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Address invitations ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Mail invitations ­­­­­­­­­___________________ *********4 weeks before party***********
_ Gather favor/decor supplies ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Make favors ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Make favors ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Write a party week timeline (including day before and day of) ­­­­­­­­­___________________
_ Enjoy the party! ­­­­­­­­­___________________
To use the timeline, put the party date in the bottom. Count back 4 weeks from party and add that date to the mail invitations line. Then fill in the rest, I like to do one thing weekly, and usually add it to Wednesday. See example below:
Party Timeline
_ Brainstorm theme ­­­­­­­­­______4/21_____________
_ Choose theme ­­­­­­­­­________4/28___________
_ Choose date/time ­­­­­­­­­_________5/5__________
_ Brainstorm guest list ­­­­­­­­­_______5/12____________
_ Brainstorm invitations ­­­­­­­­­_______5/19____________
_ Brainstorm favors ­­­­­­­­­__________5/26_________
_ Brainstorm décor ­­­­­­­­­________6/2__________
_ Brainstorm food/cake ­­­­­­­­­_______6/9____________
_ Finalize guest list ­­­­­­­­­_________6/16__________
_ Send save the date, if needed ­­­­­­­­­________6/23___________
_ Plan invitations ­­­­­­­­­______6/30_____________
_ Order/gather invitation supplies ­­­­­­­­­__________7/7_________
_ Plan favors ­­­­­­­­­________7/14___________
_ Plan décor ­­­­­­­­­_________7/23__________
_ Plan food/cake ­­­­­­­­­_______7/28____________
_ Make invitations ­­­­­­­­­_______8/5____________
_ Make invitations ­­­­­­­­­________8/12___________
_ Address invitations ­­­­­­­­­_______8/19____________
_ Mail invitations ­­­­­­­­­_________8/22__________ *********4 weeks before party***********
_ Gather favor/decor supplies ­­­­­­­­­__________8/25_________
_ Make favors ­­­­­­­­­_______9/1____________
_ Make favors ­­­­­­­­­_______9/8____________
_ Write a party week timeline (including day before and day of) ­­­­­­­­­_________9/15__________
_ Follow day before/day of timelines
_ Enjoy the party! ­­­­­­­­­_________9/17_____________

Yes, this means I start planning for a party almost 5 months ahead of time. But it's literally only 15 minutes a week. And when you do it this way, it's fun! I challenge you to try it and let me know what you think. It might just change the way you think about celebrating!

Good luck!