Wednesday, August 18, 2010

FREE photo invitations through shutterfly!

Shutterfly is offering 12 free stationary cards through 8/22.  Use them to create special invitations for your upcoming party!

If you don't like their options, you can always create your invitation and save it as a jpeg to upload to shutterfly.

Have fun, and thanks Collin!

Monday, August 16, 2010

FREE photo collage to use as party decor, keepsake, or gift

Today and tomorrow, snapfish is offering up a FREE 8x10 collage poster with FREE shipping.  No kidding!

In about 10 minutes, I made a collage of pics from our recent art camp.  The whole time I was making it, I was pretty sure I was going to end up having to pay for something...but lo and behold, when I put it in my cart and went through the process of adding the coupon code GRANDSHIP and adding my credit card info, the final cost was $0.00!!  Wooo hooo!

Thanks, Collin! can you use this for party planning?  I can think of a few great ways!

1) You could use this as decor for an upcoming could use recent pictures of the party's Guest of Honor or pics that showcase your theme (maybe pirate images you find online or 90210 characters...just sayin!)

2) If you have had a recent party and have pics sitting on your camera or your desktop, you can make a really original but QUICK keepsake for yourself.  Just upload the pictures and go.  It even has a shuffle function, so you can just keep shuffling until you get the layout you want

3) You can use this to make a special gift for a party you will be attending...use pics of the guest of honor and yourself, or use a dry erase board to tell the GOH a special message

Have fun and if you make one, let me know what you did with it!  But do it quick- it's only good through tomorrow.  You can do it!  Just choose an idea and run with it.  You'll be so glad you did- and it's FREE!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Make Your Own Invitations for a Pirate Treasure Hunt

We broke these invitations into small steps on the to do timeline, so that when the time came to actually make them, we knew exactly what to do and it went quickly and easily.  

Toward the beginning of this party's timeline, we brainstormed pirate invites.  Around this time, Sarita was planning a treasure hunt as a summer activity for the girls, so we talked about making the invites look like a treasure map.

The next invitation to do came a few weeks later, when we planned out the invite.  Again, I only spent around 15 minutes on this.  I simply googled pirate invitations, saved some images and invitation wording that I liked, and sketched out a mock up in my party planning book.

A few weeks later, we gathered our supplies.  As I mentioned in that post, I like to use supplies I already have and solicit the rest from friends and family in an effort to help them declutter.  I'm a great friend!

Finally, it was time to make the invitations.  I usually break the actual invitation making step into 2 to do steps/nights, not including addressing and delivering them (that's it's own step).  The first night I created the invite using word.  This didn't take long because I had already brainstormed and planned how I wanted these to look and what wording I might use.  

I did run into a glitch that some of you might benefit from knowing about.  When I went to print, I realized that my laptop was set to print remotely to the office, so I needed to print it from my husband's computer.  When I pulled the word document up on his laptop, the font had changed because he had an older version of word.  He didn't have a similar font I liked, so I was stuck.

But, luckily for me, I am invincible and quickly came up with the brilliant plan to save the invite as a pdf using acrobat reader on my computer and THEN email it to the other laptop.  This may be completely old news to you techies, but for me, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities!  For those of you who are even less techno geek than me, Acrobat Reader can be downloaded for free and is probably already on your computer if you open a lot of downloads you get.  Many of them are saved in AR, and now I know why!

Because of this glitch, the first session took about 30 minutes, instead of 15.  Luckily, my sister was there to help tear and stamp the edges with me to help the process along.  While we printed and tore, we also tried to tea stain the invites as we had originally planned.  This too turned out to be a disaster when the wording started to run all over the page, so we ditched that idea and used a brown stamp all over to create the same effect without the mess.

The next week, we sealed the invites with our wax seal.  I never found a K or an A seal, and didn't want to purchase one just for the invitations, so we used a bead to seal them.  It turned out fine, unless you have a scary imagination- in which case the seal may appear a bit like a bloody thumb print.
No- it's NOT a bloody thumb print

This is a messy process: keep down paper and be careful not to burn yourself!  We ended up using an older wax seal to hold the bead for us, so we could stop burning the tips of out fingers off each time.

So, this week I am addressing them, and next week I will deliver.  With these kinds of invitations, I will hand deliver most.  A few will go to friends and family out of town, so I will carefully stuff them into envelopes to mail.  This is why I usually give myself one week to address them, and one week to actually mail them.  This gives me 30 minutes total to hand deliver or get to the post office.

The whole invitation process was 6 steps.  By breaking it into steps over several weeks, things go more smoothly.  If I had tried to do all this in one day, I would have gotten frustrated by all the things that went wrong and given up or been unhappy with the final project.  

Do yourself a favor- plan your parties in 15 minutes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Party Favor Idea!

These are sooo cute!  What a fun and useful party favor idea- I wouldn't mind having on for myself either!

On sale, BUILT NY Munchler Lunch Bag - Meadow, at amazon right now for between 6-7 dollars, these would make a great favor for a small party.  These bags are pretty green, with high safety standards-lead free, yada, yada.  There are a few varieties: pink panda, black and white dog, and the green bunny.  The bunny and panda also qualify for free shipping!

A sharpie message on the inside strap saying, "Thanks for coming to Brittany's party" would make these a fun and functional favor for any party.

Of course, I found out about this sale from hip2save.  If you aren't a subscriber yet, why not??

Monday, August 9, 2010

Party Themes 101 Part Two

Brainstorming Themes, Part 2
        Brainstorming with the guest of honor

Ok, so this week it's time to take the theme brainstorm one step further.  Last week, we made a list of possible themes.  And if you're like me, you've been mulling over that list off an on and have come up with your favorites from the list.

This week, it's time to collaborate with the guest of honor.  I like to choose 2-3 of my favorites from the list and pitch those to the GOH.  When pitching to my 5 year old, I give examples of what each theme might look like: possible activities, cake options, favor ideas, etc.  This doesn't have to be very detailed.  You don't want to put too much thought into it, because you never know which theme the GOH will choose.  You want to save your effort for the chosen theme.

But here's what my pitch might look like to Monkey:

Fossil Excavation:

    *fossil dig  (baby pool filled with sand and fossils)
    *make your own fossils (with plaster of paris)
Cake Ideas-
    *fossil cake (cake and pudding and crushed oreos on top with gummy dinosaurs inside)
    *dinosaur egg cupcakes (dinosaur eggs baked inside the cupckes)
Favor Ideas-
    *personalized shadow box for displaying the found and created fossils
    *fossil book with a group picture inside
    *excavating tools


    *treasure hunt
    *pirate swagger dance
Cake Ideas-
    *Pirate cake bites (cake balls with an eye patch)
    *Pirate ship
Favor Ideas-
    *treasure hunt loot
    *pirate accessories (eye patch, bandana, etc.)

Bike Parade:

    *Bike decorating
Cake Ideas-
    *Bike wheel cupcakes
    *Cupcakes made into the shape of a bike
Favor Ideas-
    *Bike horns, personalized with names
    *Bike baskets with streamers

So, I would talk this out with Monkey, and she would choose the one she wants.  NOTE- Make sure to only pitch ideas that you can live with!  The GOH won't always choose the theme you expect.  

Sometimes, the GOH will have a theme all their own.  If it's one you are not too keen on, I would try to really sell the others that you do like.  If you are unsuccessful, it's probably best to go with the GOH's theme choice because if the GOH isn't happy, no one is.  Don't worry, ANY theme can be tweaked to be wonderful, especially if you have plenty of time to let your creative juices flow.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Party Themes 101

Brainstorming Themes

Why do I need a THEME?

Here's how defines theme:

THEME:  a unifying or dominant idea, motif, etc., as in a work of art.

                    AS IN A WORK OF ART

ART is what makes life juicy and worthwhile.  I try to put art into everyday.  Now, mind you, I can't even draw the simplest stick figure- without following a step-by-step "how to draw a stick figure" manual.  Yes, they make those.  Google it.

So I'm not talking about the creating of a masterpiece on canvas.  Unless I am having an art party.  Then I guess I'd have to sneak in a step-by-step manual for get the point.

ART is so much more than pictures and paintings.  ART is what makes your memories smile.  You know, when you think back on something you have done or seen or heard.  That part that makes your heart smile, that's ART.

And in my opinion, every party should be a work of ART.  Something people will think back on and smile about.  If there's no heart smiling, no WOW factor, then aren't you just adding one more thing to your TO DO list?  Raise your hand if you are just dying for one more thing on your to do list.  That's what I thought.

You want ART.  You want WOW.  Thus arises the need for a theme.

The beauty of making hearts smile, is that the "to do's" associated with your party will be FUN.  Not just one more thing you dread doing.  They become something you can't wait to do, because you can't wait to see all the smiles- especially on the face of the party's guest of honor.  

I can hear my friend Kari rolling her eyes at the thought that a "to do list" could be fun (yes, her eyes roll loudly and I can hear them through the ether).  I know some of you are skeptical.  But trust me.  What have you got to lose?  You have to throw that party, right?  You already committed to it, didn't you?  Well, do you want to dread it or enjoy it?  Ok then.  Jump on board.

I'm not talking about your typical "tea party" or "Bob the Builder" theme.  Mind you, I can show you how to turn one of those over done, over-commercialized themes into something that people will never expect or forget.  But when brainstorming a theme, there are NO LIMITS.  So, go crazy.  Make it happen.  Be GREATNESS.

I am constantly thinking about types of themes for parties, but when "brainstorm themes" is on my to do list for the week, I put pen to paper.  For 15 minutes.  I promised you 15 minutes.  That's all it takes to come up with a FABULOUS theme!

So, here's what you do.  Grab some paper, or your phone note pad, or whatever floats your boat.  My sister Sara and I have been known to come up with some amazing ideas on a cocktail napkin and a borrowed pen.  You need something to document your ideas.  

Now you need a timer.  Or a set amount of time.  I don't use a timer unless I am dreading the task.  But if I find myself procrastinating, I will grab a timer and set it for 15 minutes.  As my organizing guru at (loove me some flylady!) states, "You can do ANYTHING for 15 minutes."  So, if you are not feeling the mojo, set your timer.  Trust me, it will free your mind and allow those creative juices to flow as it quiets those nagging, "I don't have time for this" thoughts.  If you don't use a timer, just make sure that you don't brainstorm so long that you start to get tired of it.  The trick to loving something is to stop yourself always wanting for more, right?  So...15 minutes.  The end.

Alrighty, let's say I am brainstorming themes for my daughter's 5th birthday party.  I would sit down, alone or with my partner in crime- aka my sister Sarita, and start jotting down possibilities.  In the words of my 4th grade writing teacher, Mrs. Baird, the wackier the idea- the better!  

I just start writing what comes to mind, thinking of things she likes or is interested in.  And, of course, I throw in ones that I am secretly pumped about and hoping she will love too.

Monkey's Bday Theme Options:

backward party
fossil excavation
dress up
bike parade
back to nature
willie wonka (the book we're reading right now)
wizard of oz (the book she wants to read next)
kids in the kitchen
yoga pretzels
kindergarten kritters
pet picnic
pen pals

Then I get up and move on with my week.  Sure, this festers, and I start to think about how I could do a Willie Wonka party without candy.  Or what a pen pal party would look like.  But the idea is to get my ideas flowing and to get excited.  

That's all.  Check it off the list.  You have officially brainstormed your theme!  And you are right on track for a WOW party.  Woo hoo!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Have a Party Coming Up? Try Using My "Day of The Party" Timeline

Anyone have a party coming up?  I just happen to have one on 9-02-10...

Here's what I'll be doing the day of and my explanation behind the super type A timeline:

Day of the Party Timeline

¾   Take cake out of the freezer
¾   Run and empty the dishwasher
¾   Make beverages
o   ______________
o   ______________
o   ______________
o   ______________
¾   Add last minute décor, such as favors
¾   Make last minute food
o   ______________
o   ______________
o   ______________
o   ______________
¾   Get balloons, if using
¾   Turn down the a/c or open windows
¾   Turn on music
¾   Light candles
¾   Check restrooms
¾   Sit back and enjoy a few moments of silence before the party begins.  Visualize the perfect party.  It’s almost here!

I use the day of timeline by filling in times next to each thing.  This keeps me on track and on time, and keeps me from stressing that I don’t have enough time to finish everything.  It also gives me an idea of whether I have put too many items on this timeline and lets me know when I need to move some items to the day before.

To fill in the times, I start with the last item, fill in a time that is about 15 minutes before the party, and count backwards.  See the example below:

Day of the Party Timeline

¾   Take cake out of the freezer (1:15)
¾   Run and empty the dishwasher (1:30)
¾   Make beverages and set coffee maker
o   ______________ (1:45)
o   ______________ (2:00)
o   ______________ (2:15)
o   ______________ (2:30)
¾   Add last minute décor, such as favors
¾   Make last minute food
o   ______________ (2:45)
o   ______________ (3:15)
o   ______________ (3:45)
o   ______________ (4:15)
¾   Send someone to get balloons, if using (4:15)
¾   Turn down the a/c or open windows (4:30)
¾   Turn on music (4:45)
¾   Get dressed for the party (5:00)
¾   Light candles (5:15)
¾   Check restrooms (5:30)
¾   Sit back and enjoy a few moments of silence before the party begins.  Visualize the perfect party.  It’s almost here!   (5:45)

This would be for a party starting at 6:00 pm.  I usually give myself 15 minutes for each step, and sometimes 30 minutes for the food preparation.  

If you usually get frazzled the day of a party, if you and those you live with argue due to the stress of getting everything ready, this timeline will help.  You will be able to relax and easily delegate when someone offers to help because you will know exactly what needs to be down and when.

Another day of tip is this: I usually ask my husband to take the kids out to do something fun the morning of the party.  This is a win/win because the kids get to have fun with Daddy, and I can easily keep the house straightened while prepping without having kiddos underfoot.  

A few days before the party, I also usually give my husband a list of a few things and ask him if he would mind completing them before the party.  They are usually things that are easier for him than me- such as spraying for mosquitoes if it’s an outdoor party, picking up balloons, or trimming last minute bushes, etc.  By asking a few days in advance, and then letting go of those items rather than micromanaging, we have discovered a way to help each other and not bicker or argue on the day of a party.  

Before using the timelines, I was in a constant state of panic on the day of any party, and would easily snap at anyone in my path.  Before one said party, my husband calmly pointed out that “I get like that any time we host something,” I knew I had to change.  Thus was born the timelines and they have worked like a charm almost every time since.