Friday, October 31, 2008

Reassessing Priorities

During October I have been pondering what to do with this blog.

I want to continue posting here, but as you can see I've not lived up to my end of the bargain since we moved. I actually have a plethora of links to party ideas bookmarked on delicious (especially from the fall/Halloween season), but I can never get around to posting them. And I always see cool stuff on other blogs and think "That's a great idea! I need to add it to my blog!" But then I feel as though this blog would be nothing but a collection of other people's ideas. (Although, is that really such a bad thing? There are so many creative bloggers and contributors out there, and I always give credit where it is due!) As for original stuff, we've thrown a variety of events the last few months; however, I either don't have good pictures (the parties went so well I had no time to get out the camera!) or they were total flops and only one or two people showed up. So, I'm reevaluating.

Surprisingly, I got a new comment today and it made me think that perhaps there is still a section of people who might benefit from my posting. I know I appreciate being able to search one site for all the good party/entertaining ideas I've seen. Anyone else? Anyone? Bueller?

I think I can commit to posting 3 times a week for starters. I'd like to go through the end of the year, at least, but then I have another son due at the beginning of February, so unless I find some time to stock up on at least a month's worth of prepared posts, you won't see me much around here after that.

If you like this blog and think I should keep it up, or have suggestions for me, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Celebrate Sleeping through the Night

Although we've been having a little trouble with teething, mostly our son sleeps blissfully through the night now that he is 16 months old. However, I know all too well the long nights of getting up in the wee hours and nursing a baby or comforting a fussy little one.

A while back I was directed to this post about throwing a party when your little one finally sleeps through the night! (Courtesy of Amy's Notebook.)

The pictures are adorable, and I love how she utilizes the "table made into a bed" idea that we've seen before here.

This blog is about rejoicing in the everyday, and even the tiniest accomplishments should be celebrated, I think. Perhaps we'll have a "potty training" party in the next year!

And I definitely should've had a "feet-themed" party when J learned to walk. Well, I'll have to save that idea for the next one: we'll read The Foot Book and eat feet-shaped sandwiches and perhaps enjoy a footprint or flip-flop cake.

And do you remember the excitement the first time your little one rolled over? Get the older siblings excited, too, by eating fruit roll-ups and rolled sandwiches and reading Beatrix Potter's The Roly-Poly Pudding. (Please, someone stop me. I could go on forever at this rate!)

Have you celebrated any baby and toddler milestones with a party? Do you need an idea on how to celebrate an upcoming event? Please, share your stories and questions below!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Green Party

(Not the political one.)

How to Throw a Green Party at Epicuious.com

I've been meaning to post this one for a while. Seems "the green life" is all the rage, even for parties. This one offers a range of ideas, from sophisticated to casual, and as well as being environmentally friendly, their suggestions are also almost always FRUGAL. It's the best of both worlds!

Check out the link above for a multitude of ideas and tips. These are great for the newbie party-planner as well, since they offer many general event-related suggestions along with their eco-friendly tips.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beijing 2008

In honor of the upcoming Olympics, I've seen a few Chinese-inspired party ideas floating around the web.

First up is from AT's Ohdeedoh, which highlighted a recent Chinese-Themed Birthday Party for kids.

For the adults, Kenmore has created a site with step-by-step instructions and tips for throwing a Chinese-themed BBQ! (HT to the Motherload, I think.) There are great kitchen tips, a plethora of yummy-sounding recipes, creative invitation ideas (some you can do yourself!), ideas on how to incorporate the kids, and --my favorite-- what to do with the leftovers! Brilliant! This site just begs you to throw a party!

We're going to be out of town on August 8th, but if we were here, I think this would be fantastic way to celebrate the Opening Ceremonies! If you can, set up a screen (or just tack a sheet to the wall or fence) and broadcast the opening ceremonies during your party! What a great way to bring the neighborhood together.

Do you have ideas on how to celebrate the Olympics? Please share them here!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fruit Chews...on a Cake!



I'm back! We're (mostly) moved in to our new place. And I just had to blog this crazy, wonderful, delicious idea for decorating a cake with fruit chew flowers from the Angry Chicken blog ...that's right, Amy Karol decorated her daughter's birthday cake with Starbursts! I think it looks lovely and probably smelled fantastic!



Be sure to check out Amy's blog for more ingenious crafty ideas and hilarious tips on what NOT to do when making Starburst flowers...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Where's the party posts?

I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, but we are moving this weekend, and that is taking up pretty much all of my time over the next week or so.

Once we get settled into our new apartment (where we'll begin volunteering as a CARES Team again!), I'll be updating this blog much more regularly, I hope.

Be on the lookout in July for lots of ideas and pictures. I've got a backlog of things I've been needing to post, so hopefully I'll have a bit more time to work on them in the coming weeks.

Happy Summer Solstice today!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cupcakes Make Any Day a Party!

Natalie "Alabama" Chanin posted a wonderful recipe for cupcakes with buttercream icing, purportedly adapted from an original recipe from the Magnolia Bakery! Yum!

The kids said after our cupcake extravaganza was over, “This is just like a party.” To which I replied, “This is a party.”

Recently, I helped a friend make her first from-scratch cake, but was unable to stay to help her ice it. Chanin linked to this slideshow from Country Living magazine which shows step-by-step instructions on how to ice a cake with buttercream frosting. The photos--especially the one depicting a "crumb layer"--would've been most helpful to me. Hopefully, they will be of assistance to you, though! It includes "Tips and Tools of the Trade," which has inspired me to buy an offset spatula as soon as possible. The slideshow is also making my hungry!

(I have to give a plug here for Alabama Chanin and their support of truly local handmade goods, since I'm from Alabama myself and fully support such endeavors.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Build a Party from a Cardboard Box

Have you always wanted to throw a fantastical party for your kid's birthday but felt like you couldn't afford expensive decorations? Do you need some inspiration for your next themed bash? Did you just buy a new washer/dryer or refridgerator and want a fun way to recycle those large boxes?



Well, try this photo gallery of cardboard box creations at Mr. McGroovys!



From castles to pirate ships and almost anything else you can imagine, parents have created some magical fortresses, hideaways, houses, cars, and characters.



I stumbled upon this site today, and though I've never personally tried using Mr. McGroovy's cardboard box rivets, I've been reading some rave reviews. Even without mkaing a purchase, you can find a wealth of information on the website.

McGroovy's provides tips on how to find free boxes and offers free instructions for some popular constructions, including a castle, a train, and even a spaceship. There are even tips on how to make the paint look realistic. What a great resource for parents, teachers, and anyone who needs to make large-scale decorations on a budget!



Really, why do we buy them expensive toys? All they need is a cardboard box!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Little Mommy" Birthday Party

A few weeks ago I was looking around Flickr and found this twist on the classic Barbie-in-a-dress cake. Instead of a princess, make it a "Mommy" party for her four-year-old daughter, Emma! How cute is that? I contacted the photographer, and Laura agreed to share some of her ideas here. She writes: "This was such a fun party, I hope someone else can be inspired by it." I hope so, too! Thanks again, Laura!

For the invitations, she made miniature purses from scrapbook paper and slipped the invitations inside. They invited all the girls to bring their favorite
baby doll with them to the party. The even brought all the doll furniture into the living room and "set up a little nursery so the mommies would have somewhere to take care of their babies during the party." Awwww.

For the cake, she used the Wilton pan, but with only one box of cake mix, saying she "felt the shorter skirt really gave her a retro mommy look." I think her attention to detail is gorgeous! She covered the plate with about two inches of fondant decorations. I love the addition of the baby wrapped in a fondant blanket! Creative babywearing mamas could make a pouch or ring sling to hold the baby.


Emma's Mommy birthday cake
Originally uploaded by scottandlaurahilton



The party lasted about three hours, and there were 3 adults presents to help with the festivities. The afternoon was full of pampering and mommy time. I wish I had a party like this for me! Laura explains:

Once all the girls arrived we started with manicures. I had a friend of mine there so we could both be working on nails at the same time. And the girls who were waiting just continued to play with their dolls. I let each girl pick a nail polish to put in their purse and take home. Then they each got to pick a lip gloss that we helped them put on and then those went in the purse, too.


The party included the obligatory cake and ice cream time, and then the afternoon ended with a neat surprise scrapbooking activityy!

I had my husband take pictures of the girls the whole first part of the party (We took photo ops: each girl getting her nails done, each girl with their baby, all the girls with their rings, each girl giving the birthday girl a
present, and eating cake.) I then had him quickly upload and print about 6
wallet sized pictures for each girl. After cake and ice cream the girls gathered around the a table and did a little scrapbooking. We did the gluing while the girls stuck on stickers and colored with crayon.


Emma and her friends
Originally uploaded by scottandlaurahilton



It sounds like a fun, frugal time! Laura's resourcefulness included many homemade items. She got almost all of the manicure supplies from the Dollar Spot at Target, and she made the purses from some extra fabric she had on hand. She made mini scrapbooks by cutting down card stock and scrapbook paper and binding them with ribbon. Sitckers and other craft supplies were from the Dollar Store. She made the purses herself by sewing 6X8 fabric bags with ribbon handles.


The Birthday Girl
Originally uploaded by scottandlaurahilton



Happy Birthday, Little Mommy! It sounds like you had a great party!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Don't Tell the Cows

Perhaps you had a cookout on Memorial Day and grilled hamburgers? If so, you were unwittingly celebrating National Hamburger Month, which makes perfect sense considering that many people fire up their grills for the first time in May.

If you missed out on some burgers over the weekend, don't worry, though, because tomorrow there's another good excuse to celebrate grilled meat on a bun. According to some internet sources May 28th is "officially" National Hambuger Day! (Unlike other, less reliable reports which claim a day in December. Who wants a homemade burger in the middle of winter?)

Of course, if you don't have access to a grill to celebrate or you are a vegetarian or you just had too many burgers over the weekend...you can always make this hamburger cake!

I made this cheeseburger cake for my husband's birthday about 4 years ago, because at the time we were really into Homestarrunner, particularly this toon.

If you would like to know how to make this "Big Mac" cake, you can find the instructions at Woman's Day. This was my first attempt at a frosted cake so please don't judge me too harshly!

I remember that my Homestar Jr. Cake looked much better than it tasted, and that's not saying much. It could've been my cake recipe, though, so feel free to try it out yourself.

Just make sure you have plenty of ice cream handy in case of, um, any culinary disasters. Ice cream covers a multitude of ills and makes even the driest cake or cookies palatable. Trust me.



Happy Hamburger Day, everyone!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beloved Birthday Cakes

A few weeks ago, Apartment Therapy asked about readers' favorite birthday cakes, either made or received. There are some great responses in the comments if you need some ideas for a cake!

I would highly recommend reading the original inspiration, an entertaining NY Times article titled "The Birthday Cake as a Milepost." An excerpt:

There is an irresistible charm to these flight-of-fancy cakes, and fueling children’s imaginative rides in the early years is part of a parent’s job. But I think the real reason we bake far-fetched cakes is because we hear in our children’s birthday-cake requests, whether spoken or not, this: "You can do it. You’re Mom."


My husband's paternal grandmother has always been the family cake-baker. I think she took some Wilton classes and helped out a professional cake decorator once, but however she honed her skills, the entire family still talks about "Bobbie's cakes." She even has entire photo albums (not one, mind you, but many) of her creations! I think the first cake she made was for her oldest son, when he was very young, but it soon spiraled out from there to include other family members, and she even made birthday cakes for her friends' children as they were growing up. The ABC cake featured on this post was one of her famed caramel concoctions.

One of the most-fondly remembered cakes is a computer cake she made for my husband when he was 9 or 10. It was modeled on an Apple IIE, complete with caramel squares for the keyboard letters! I don't have a picture of that, but I did find this old snapshot of the carousel cake at his 2nd birthday many, many years ago.



If you have a favorite birthday cake you have made or received or made, please share with us in the comments!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ladybug Picnic Party

Yesterday, my son received this adorable handmade invitation in the mail to his friend Miss Scarlett's first birthday party:



Miss Scarlett's mom has chosen a picnic theme, complete with ladybugs and a red checkered blanket motif. She wants to make the cake herself, and I thought I would throw out some ideas here on the blog.

At one point, she mentioned making a cake in the shape of the number 1 covered in red checkered pattern, similar to the invitation above. Here's a Checkerboard Cake which suggests making the squares using pieces of fruit leather! Brilliant!

I suggested adding ants crawling across the cake, but she says ladybugs and flowers are cuter. She's right! (I suppose I'm already accustomed to planning for a boy!)

Here are some more cake ideas I found around the web:

  • A very cute Ladybug Cake, which you make using Junior Mints!
  • A Gumdrop Garden Cake, which has a similar theme
  • Finally, in the "Why not?!" category, a Hotdog and Fries Cake!

    For decorations:
    Checkered tablecloths, of course! She's having the party at a local park, during lunchtime, so anything that is easily transportable and easy to take down is essential. I'd suggest a few blankets for the smaller children to sit on and eat their food.

    Nature, of course, is the best decoration of all, but it would be easy to make some paper ladybugs using red and black cardstock to put up around the picnic area. You could hang them from trees or a pavilion, if available. Streamers are also easy to carry, but be mindful of the weather. Wet streamers are never fun to clean up!

    Here are some other, similar themed parties:
  • Huggable-Bug Party with ideas for bug crafts and goody bags.
  • Garden Party, which includes flower-related activities and snacks.

    Do you have any ideas to share with my friend for her Ladybug Picnic Party? Be sure to leave a comment below!

  • Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Active Birthday Parties

    In the same Top 10 List as yesterday's post, Parents magazine tells us that more parents are incorporating physical activities into birthday parties.

    I don't know about you, but growing up, my parties were ALWAYS active. I specifically remember roller-skating parties, swimming parties, bowling parties, running around playing games in my friends' backyards, and slumber parties spent rockin' out to "Footloose." (We choreographed our own dance moves.)

    Do you specifically make a point to plan physical activities into your kids' parties? If so, what do you do?

    Monday, May 19, 2008

    Showers for Younger Siblings?

    According to Parents magazine, baby showers for younger siblings are on the rise. If you had a baby shower for your second, third, fourth, or beyond, how did you celebrate? Was your party more about welcoming the new little one or pampering the mom?

    Perhaps you haven't had multiple showers, but you've attended one. What did you like about it?

    Most importantly, do you think this trend is a good idea? Why or why not?

    Please leave your thoughts in the comments below! Also, be sure to vote in the poll on the sidebar to the left. I'm enjoying these new Blogger features!

    P.S. I'm back from a week away from the computer. If I had known, I would've had a post up every week day while I was away, now that Blogger has the option of scheduling posts in advance. Look for at least one post every weekday from now on. :)

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    More Baby Shower Ideas

    I hope all the moms had a wonderful Mother's Day yesterday! I certainly did!

    Just wanted to point you to Blissfully Domestic for a final round-up of baby shower ideas from readers. I love the winning "bead necklace" activity for the new mom, from megret:

    Everyone brought a bead (or two or three) that represents/reminds us either of the mommy-to-be (something reflecting her personality) OR, if you are a mom yourself, a bead(s) that represent a part of motherhood or bit of heartfelt advice. I chose a pink glass heart to remind my friend to love her little son (and TELL him she loved him) daily. Another person gave her a white bead symbolizing her pure and giving heart. It was quite touching; there wasn't a dry eye.

    The beads were strung onto a ribbon and made into a necklace that she could wear during labor.

    The thoughtfulness behind the necklace reminds me of one of the best gifts I got from a friend at a baby shower: a set of Scripture verses on little cards attached on a binder ring. I flipped through them before our son was born, and the truths brought me comfort. I didn't refer to them as much during labor as I thought I would (being completely exhausted and all), but they were especially touching during my recovery.

    My friend Rachel typed them all up herself, printed the verses out on colored card stock, punched a hole in each corner, and put them together, but you could request in advance that your shower guests each bring a meaningful verse or quote concerning motherhood, labor, nursing, etc. You could collect them by e-mail beforehand or have them write them down at the shower. Afterwards, you could fashion them into a flipbook for the expectant mom.

    I keep them in my son's room and they still make me smile whenever I read them. Here's to gifts that bring encouragement long after the party is over!

    Friday, May 9, 2008

    Frugal Friday: Found Table Runner

    When you're throwing a party, sometimes the easiest way to save money on decorations is to repurpose something you already own.



    Here, instead of buying a paper tablecloth that will be used once and thrown away, I used a multi-colored blanket as a table runner. We folded it in thirds and placed it over a fancy white tablecloth we already had. Search your closet for scarves, wraps, or other items that can be used to adorn your table. You might be surprised at what you discover that will inspire you!

    (Thanks, Jennifer, for the beautiful blanket! Despite its inclusion here, I mostly plan to enjoy it as its meant to be used--as a summer throw. Don't worry, I'm taking good care of it! No Brazilian blankets were harmed during the celebratin' at this party. )

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    Scooby-Dooby-Doo Double Birthday Parties for Two

    Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You?
    We got some work to do now.
    Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You?
    We need some help from you now.


    My longtime friend Jamie Lyn sent these photos of her recent Scooby-Doo themed double birthday party to me a few weeks ago. Her two children, a boy and a girl, celebrate their birthdays close together in April, and she always has a separate party for friends and family, so this year she hosted TWO parties for TWO kids within a few days. Way to go! She's graciously allowed me to share her advice here. Hopefully, some of you with children close in age and birthday will be able to benefit from her creativity!



    On this amazing Scooby-Doo cookie cake for her son:

    Scooby was a free coloring sheet that I found online, then blew up on my scanner. I used that to make a template out of wax paper, then cut out the cookie with a knife before I baked it. I decorated it using my coloring sheet as a guide, but there was some element of freehand to it.




    On the small daisy cakes, pictured above, for her daughter (I love how the flowers keep the groovy Scooby Doo theme, yet make it girly!):

    The daisies are obviously just seven mini cupcakes arranged together. This size was ideal for the 2-4 set, who get a little crazy on even the smallest amounts of sugar! You could use the same idea for other, more "sophisticated" events, though...petit fours or cheesecake bites would be cute for a shower or tea party.




    On the table decorations and being frugal:

    I did spend more this year on "themed" goods than I have in the past, but considering we served 42 people over the two parties (and the second included a meal), it was still very reasonable. I only bought a few "high-impact" items in the pricier themed versions (tablecloth, invitations, one small package of cups for the kids, one package of napkins), then interspersed them with less expensive solid colored goods (plates, cups for everyone else, more napkins). That crazy centerpiece thing was there only because I found it on clearance at the party store for less than $2; I would NOT have paid the $12 that it cost normally. I also skipped Party City's Scooby Doo themed goodie bag items, except for one thing that I found on super clearance. That kind of stuff is just so much cheaper elsewhere, and half the stuff doesn't survive the trip home anyway.

    We already had the special Scooby Doo plate and cup that Will used. I've discovered that if you're doing a theme because your child is into something, you usually have a lot of that stuff around your house.


    It's true! Before you go all-out for a kid's themed birthday, think of all the character toys, plates, cups and other items that you might already own.

    As an added bonus, JL dispenses some all-around good advice on cake toppers:

    A friend of mine taught me that you can be creative and frugal even if you don't make your own cake. A couple of years ago her little boy was into tractors, but the bakery was going to charge her an extra $5 just to add a couple of cheap, plastic tractors (that looked like they came from the quarter machine) to the farm cake she'd ordered. She told them to skip it, and instead added a couple of small tractors they'd planned to give their son as gifts once they got the cake home. The cake was very cute, and her little boy was super excited to actually get real toys to play with, rather than those cheap things with plastic sticks on the bottom. You could do the same thing with cars, Polly Pockets, Little People, etc.


    This just popped into my brain: how fun and simple would it be to spell out "Happy Birthday" using Legos on an elementary-aged kid's sheet cake!? (Of course, you'd have to wash them or any toy before AND after using them on a cake, but that could be easily done by putting them in one of those baby-stuff baskets or a mesh bag in the dishwasher.) I might even enjoy something like that on my birthday cake, to make me feel like a kid again! I think I still have a box of Legos in my parents' house I might just have to go recover. :) And I know a grown-up friend who would probably love a Transformer on his June birthday cake.

    If you have a good idea, please share with us! You can e-mail me or leave a comment on any post. Thanks, all! And thanks Jamie Lyn for sharing your inspired birthday ideas! More birthday ideas coming soon!

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    Flower Pot Desserts

    The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a fantastic resource for party food. True to her reputation for fantastic dishes explained in detail with photographic how-to's, she has a new recipe perfect for spring parties: the flower pot dessert.



    If you are hosting a tea, a shower, an end-of-school fete, or just a get-together that calls for something sweet, these might be just the ticket! She even has "boy" and "girl" versions (though I do like Gummy worms, myself.) I think you'll have just as much fun making these as you will eating them!

    Monday, May 5, 2008

    Baby Showers Galore!

    Blissfully Domestic is throwing a virtual baby shower for one of their own, coincidentally also named Allison (but it's definitely not me, because she's having her 5th baby!). In honor of this occasion, they are having a week-long celebration of babies and pregnancy. Click on over for all the baby-related hooplah!

    All you party-planners, be sure to add your two cents to the post asking for the best tips on hosting a baby shower! You could win a free book!

    One commentor, Rachel, of Seeking Delightful Pleasures, shared ideas for an adorable Rubber Ducky Baby Shower! I especially love the rubber duckies floating in the blue and white punch!

    I'll try to update this post this week with links to all relevant Blissfully Domestic baby shower party-planning info:

  • How to Make a Baby Block cake and Daisy cupcakes.
  • Shower Ideas for Subsequent Children
  • Round-Up of Baby Shower Ideas

  • Baby Buggy Shower Invites

    One of my favorite crafty bloggers, Anna Maria Horner, just posted some beautiful photos from a recent baby shower she hosted.


    baby.buggy.invite
    Originally uploaded by annamariahorner


    Her design for the buggy is very familiar...I found some make-your-own card kits on sale at World Market last year that had a similar design, except they used paper and scrapbook bits instead of fabric and buttons. Still, it's a lovely idea for invitations! So cute! (I used mine for thank-you's.)

    She also has some beautiful photographs of flowers in glasses, for an in-the-womb motif, which are quite lovely. Make sure to check out her full post!

    Friday, May 2, 2008

    Q&A: Kiddie Pool Birthday Party


    Summer birthdays, rejoice! That time is almost upon us. What kid wouldn't love a water-themed birthday party? This little girl certainly looks like she enjoyed her time in the pool! (Photo courtesy of the hiltons on flickr.) I, too, had a summer birthday and I think I had a water related party almost every year when I was a kid, so this latest Q&A is right up my alley!

    Candace from Mommy Matters, a fellow Georgia blogger, asks:

    My daughter will be turning 3 in August and we are thinking of a cookout with the kiddie pools set up. Do you have any great advice on how to keep the $$$ to a minimum? We have a friend that does incredible cakes too so if you have any fun ideas for a water themed cake I would love to hear those too!

    Candace, you have come to the right place. Cookouts are my specialty. :) And happy upcoming birthday to your little girl!

    My first piece of advice is this: remember, especially when trying to stick to a budget, that it throwing a party is really all about having fun, and "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." (Of course, this applies to the birthday girl, too.) So, delegate some tasks (to husbands, family members, friends) and remember to enjoy yourself and your daughter's occasion! Whether or not the party looks fabulous, you want to make sure you and your daughter are having a good time! Now, on with the ideas...

    For a cookout in honor of a 3-year old, my menu might include:
    Mini-burgers
    Goldfish crackers and/or chips
    veggie crudites
    deviled eggs
    fruit pieces or fruit leather
    various dips (spinach, hummus, yogurt/cream cheese)
    birthday cake
    ice cream
    lots of water and juice
    beverages for the adults

    Favor idea: Sippy cups or straw cups! Use a paint pen to put a name on each kid's cup (dots at the corners make it festive). The best part is...they can use it at the party and no one will get their cups mixed up!

    Here are some tips to keep food costs low:
  • Plan ahead! Figure out how many folks are coming and make a list of exactly what you will need and how much. Comparison shop if needed.
  • Buy in bulk from a warehouse store, especially ground meat, chips, sodas, etc.
  • Don't be afraid of off-brand ice cream in the plastic tubs. Transfer it into a pretty ice bucket, store in freexer, and no one will ever know. You can always have toppings at the ready to mask the not-so-natural vanilla flavor. Besides, you're eating it with cake. Who cares about ice cream when you have CAKE!
  • Make your own patties (they usually taste better than the frozen kind anyway). You can do this in advance and freeze your own! And you can make turkey burgers, which are cheaper AND healthier than ground beef.
  • Make your own dinner rolls using your favorite bread or bread machine dough recipe.
  • Make your own fruit leather. There's a great recipe for this in Super Baby Food, too.

    Cost-effective water-related activity ideas:
  • Connect a hose to a water sprinkler and let the kids play.
  • Hand out bubbles from the Dollar Store. Even the adults will have fun with this. (Also a favor idea.)
  • Put bath toys/sand toys in the kiddie pool.
  • Fill up unexpected containers with water for fun play, like an inflatable raft, large buckets, etc.
  • Play games with beach balls, such as a pint-size version of kickball or catch.
  • If you have older kids attending, water balloons and/or water guns from the Dollar Store might be appropriate. Have your own version of the "egg on a spoon" relay with water balloons!
  • Hula hoops are always a hit for any age!
  • Wondertime has some great age-appropriate backyard water games and wading pool games!
    If these aren't enough, search around your favorite parenting site for more water game ideas!

    Kiddie pools are a fantastic item for party inspiration!

    Honestly, I had no idea there were so many options. Obviously, you already have some you are planning to use, but really, I may have to get one for our patio this summer. Some of these are too cute (and affordable) to pass up!

    In fact, Parents magazine has an entire article about a Kiddie-Pool Party, with some great ideas, though most of them appeal to the 4 and up age range. They do include some great recipes, including shell-shaped pasta salad and deviled egg boats.

    You can even fill up one kiddie pool with ice for drinks. Children especially will love fishing theirs out on a hot summer day! We used a big blue plastic tub for years at large cookouts, but I've seen other folks use planters, baskets, and other decorative containers lined with a clear plastic bag to keep drinks cold, although there is a risk with that route of leakage and the dangers of plastic bags around kids. How cute would one of those kiddie pools with the island in the middle be filled with ice and drinks?

    Martha, too, has a Sprinkler Party, though most of her suggestings involve crafty-type towel favors and gift wrap. She does link to a fantastic fish-themed menu for kids, complete with a Sand Bucket Angel Food Cake.

    Some of my other favorite ideas for water-themed cakes include:
    Water Park Cake
    Snorkeler Cake
    Flip Flop Cake
    Blue Jell-O cake with Gummi creatures
    Tropical Pool Cake

    Candace, I hope this has offered you some inspiration! If you remember, please send me pictures of your party so we can see the final result!

    To everyone, I love answering your questions, so please keep them coming! And if you have party pictures of your own, please send them along! Thanks!

  • Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Retro Housewife Party

    I don't even know how to play bunco, but this looks like a fun night!

    Amy at The Motherload recently threw a Retro Housewife Bunco Party, complete with Sloppy Joes, mandatory apron-wearing, rice krispy treats, and game-fun galore!

    She also shared some helpful tips:

  • Don't be afraid to use prepared foods you just pop in the oven (i.e. tater tots) alongside your main couse. Fast, easy and fun!
  • Cake stands can help keep bread fresh and add height to your presentation.
  • Fill up one side of your sink with ice and use it instead of a cooler to hold drinks. (Now why didn't I ever think of that?!) It definitely beats dumping out the water from a cooler...and you could even repurpose the melted ice to wash dishes!
  • When entertaining in a small space, you have to be creative. Get rid of all clutter and unnecessary items, even if it is just for the night!


  • We've hosted game nights before, but this is taking it to a whole other level. The key here is not leaving anyone out: if the guest didn't have an apron, she provided one! I also love the idea of a regular game night with a different theme each month! It reminds me of those murder-mystery dinners--you can really go all out on a theme quite cheaply if everyone pitches in!

    Monday, April 28, 2008

    New Header Coming Soon

    Yay! I won a new header for this blog!

    Karen from Simply Amusing Designs is sure to come up with some much-needed festive decor for my little corner of blogville, so come back soon to see the result!

    Drop-Off Entertaining: A Brilliant Idea!

    This morning I came across a post about making your own fancy box lunches at home.

    This would be a great idea for your very own VIP, or even a treat for some office staff in need of lunch. Much more cost-effective than takeout, and much more personal and pretty, too!

    Thanks, Meredith, for the great idea and detailed how-to!

    Saturday, April 26, 2008

    Bloggy Giveaway Carnival: We have a winner!

    Thank you to all who participated and visited my little blog! If you need an idea for your next celebration or need an answer to a party-planning related question, feel free to return regularly as this site grows and expands. I look forward to your input!

    Now, as for the Bloggy Giveaway Contest, out of a grand total of 58 comments, there had to be one winner. Random Number Generator performed its task with excellence and chose...

    Commentor #28, mrscjallen, who said: "What beautiful writing! I'm wishing you all the luck on your new endeavor. And if I were to win, I'd use these beautiful personalized cards to write a 'short note' to the ladies in my Bible study or my family out of state. Although I will admit, it would take me a minute to part with it and I may just save one for me. :o)"

    Thanks, all, for your kind comments! And congratulations to our winner!

    And if you didn't win, well, be on the lookout for an announcement of an online shop where you can order cards from me! Mostly, I plan to focus on addressing invitations, but I may have to branch out into personalized note cards! I know of at least one stationery success story in real life. So, we shall see what happens!

    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    Idolicious

    One of the purposes of this blog is to encourage folks to celebrate the goodness in life in whatever form that may take, be it a special occasion or just an excuse to party for any reason. And I do mean ANY reason.

    Keely Scott who blogs at Queen Anne's Lace posted about her American Idol Fantasy League Event Tuesday night.

    It just shows that all you really need to have a memorable evening is a group of crazy friends and a TV show that you both love and love to mock. With a homemade "American Idolschmidol" banner, some fantastically awesome themed door prizes including a custom-made David Archuleta wall clock, a visit from Ryan Seacrest, Jason Castro cookies complete with dreds, and, of course, the free entertainment in the form of America's favorite popularity contest, you know they had a blast.

    Be sure to check out the all-star cast of characters in her group photo. If you are familiar with the Square Peg Alliance, you might just recognize a few faces in the crowd (though I'm still trying to figure out who might have been in the gorilla suit!)

    Question: if you were going to throw a television-show themed party -- which show would you choose and how would you celebrate? I'm going to think about throwing a LOST-themed party for the season finale...complete with Dharma Initiative-logo cookies. What about you?

    Pirate Birthday Party

    One of my favorite blogs, Ohdeedoh at Apartment Therapy, recently featured a pirate party! While some of the ideas are a little out of my price range, perhaps (store-made custom cakes and cupcakes, a pirate bouncer in the backyard, etc.), there are plenty of other ideas to spark your imagination. I love that she made the invitations look like treasure maps by tea-staining them and burning the edges! How fun!

    The Pirate Party post is here, while the creator, a crafty mom, blogs at Pigeon Pair.

    Have you found party ideas on the web you'd want archived/categorized here? Please let me know!

    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    Bloggy Giveaway Carnival -- Personalized Note Cards

    Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival Button



    It's Bloggy Giveaway time! In honor of my new professional endeavor, I am giving away a set of classic hand-lettered personalized stationery -- the gift of calligraphy. Every party hostess needs a nice set of thank-you notes!



    What you can win:

  • 10 Personalized Large Blank Note Cards and 10 Envelopes (white), oversized (6.5 by 5 inches) for those times when a quick note really becomes more like a short letter.

  • Choice of Blackletter script (shown) or Italic (picture coming soon), with either one initial, three initials or a first name.


  • To enter, all you have to do is leave one comment on this post telling me who you would want to write using your new stationery! The impersonal random.org will pick the winning comment. Comments will close Friday, April 25th, at midnight Saturday, April 26th, at 8am EST. I will post the winner here on Saturday morning after the random number generator does its work!

    Go check out the rest of the prizes offered by bloggers at the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival!

    Comments are now closed. Thanks to all for entering!

    Earth Day Party Ideas

    This year Earth Day seems to be more prominent everywhere I go. From Office Depot ads to the local grocery store, advertisers are jumping on the green bandwagon with a vengeance. As I've learned, however, being mindful of our resources will never go out of style and you don't need to spend a lot of money to go green for your next event.

    Here are some party tips on how to help save the environment AND help save you money:

    1. Use real dishes and silverware. Yes, you have to load the dishwaher more than once and the extras might pile up in the sink, but you wont be throwing away tons of paper plates and utensils OR paying extra for them. If you feel so inclined, break out the fancy china that sits all by its lonesome in a box or in your buffet. Your guests will thank you.

    2. Cloth napkins. You can make your own, you know. Martha even gives a great tutorial on how to make light, summery fringed cloth napkins from old button-up shirts. Goodwill and thrift stores are also great places to find these.

    3. Use what you already have in new ways. Raid your closets and shelves (or Goodwill) for decorative items for centerpieces. You'd be surprised what you can do if you just look at what you have in a different light-- an old purse or basket (lined with a plastic bag--reused, of course!) could make a centerpiece for flowers. Hang mismatched earrings around the rim of a plain candle holder, place a candle on top to hold them in place, and you have a sparkly new tabletopper! See what else you can imagine!

    4. Don't use the oven or other appliances when preparing food for your next intimate party or tête–à–tête . Serve finger sandwiches, fruit salad, a gelatin or other cold dessert, and iced drinks. This works especially well in the summer, even for evening parties. Think of the energy you will save from not turning on the oven for an entire day!

    5. Have an evening party with the lights out. Millions of people took part in Earth Hour, but why not turn the electricity off one a month or once a week? If you are not fortunate enough to enjoy the lengthening daylight hours, candlelight can add a soft atmosphere to your next event. Line up tealights (very inexpensive on sale) or strategically place a few odd-numbered pillar candle collections around the room.

    6. Find new ways to entertain using what you already have without resorting to technology. Playing board games, using sheets and popsicle sticks to make a puppet theater, creating mini framed collages from old magazines or participating in some other sort of repurposing craft project are activities that even adults can enjoy! One of my favorite ways to spend an evening is to invite folks to bring their instruments (if they play) and have an impromptu concert or jam session. Sing songs familiar to the group, perhaps even around a campfire. Maybe even roast some s'mores! It will feel like that memorable summer when you were 12 all over again.

    7. Finally...take the party outdoors! Pack a lunch for your group (or invite each person to bring their own in reusable containers with cloth napkins and real utensils) and plan a playdate in the park. Gather some friends to go hiking on your birthday. Watch some fireworks in the town square. Visit a nature center (if it's free). A good celebration doesn't always have to be a sit-down affair! If you don't have a picnic basket, I've found World Market to be a great source for many affordable wicker styles, as well as reusable melanine plates and the aforementioned cloth napkins. Use an old sheet for a tablecloth and you are ready to party!

    Have any more eco-friendly party ideas? Please share them in the comments!

    Monday, April 21, 2008

    Connor's Frist Birthday Bash

    Connor's First Birthday Bash!

    Okay, so it's not a real party, but a virtual one! But this one is even better because you can win cool stuff! Go check out Connor's First Birthday Bash at Seven Dogs and a Baby. This Alabama mom is celebrating with a week's worth of prizes!

    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    How to Design a Party

    Just as Ratatouille's Gusteau believed "Anyone Can Cook," I believe that Anyone Can Throw a Party. All you need is a reason to celebrate!

    I've been showing you lots of ideas for party themes, from showers to birthdays and more. But some of you may think "I'm creatively challenged. I can't do that on my own!" Oh, yes you can!

    Especially with some help from the Hostess with the Mostess herself, who shows you how to design your own party using an inspiration piece.

    Bloggy Giveaway Carnival

    Every quarter, Bloggy Giveaways hosts a carnival where hundreds of bloggers offer prizes for their readers. The next one is the week of April 21-25...that's next week! (Where has this year gone already?!)

    Next week, I'm going to host the first-ever Very Merry Events giveaway, so please come back here Monday to find out what you could win! (And don't worry, I won't make you write a limerick for it, and I promise it will be party-related, possibly even hand-made by moi, so you know you'll want to come back!)

    You might even want to join in and host a giveaway of your own! And remember, starting Monday you can click on the button in the sidebar or go here for chances to win even more free stuff just by visiting other blogs!

    Sports-Themed Birthday Party on a Budget

    My friend Jamie Lyn is one talented mom, and she definitely knows how to throw a fantastic themed birthday party for her little guy, all while being thrifty. For her son's second birthday, she used her son's love of sports as her starting piece. Here are some of her pictures with the explanations in her own words. She writes:

    At his second [birthday], Will was seriously into balls of any kind. This is when I first discovered that having a spring baby worked to my advantage in party planning. I found a TON of inexpensive sports stuff in the Easter goodies section at Walmart, and some of the paper goods came from the dollar spot at Target. (I think they were actually meant for March Madness, but they were perfect for me!)



    The goody bags were little Easter basketball baskets; the football rattle (above) was for my friend's baby because she was too small for a goody bag.


    I love these goody bags and think they would also make great prizes for a March Madness party. I'm sure Target/Walmart might have something similar next year.

    Holiday Target Tip: Shop for holiday items a year in advance. The lowest markdown on holiday-themed items is always on the seventh day after the holiday. Also, markdowns on Kids' Clothing items and stationery usually happen on Mondays. (HT to Wisebread for the Target Shopping Article.)



    Below is a picture of her piece d'resistance: a basketball-shaped cake using her son's name as the logo! I could see the nams-as-logo idea working well with a tennis ball or golf ball, too.



    Here is her explanation. You've got to love those Wilton cake pans!
    A friend of mine suggested making the basketball read "William" instead of "Wilson." Only a handful of people picked up on that, but it was really cute.

    The Wilton cake pan came with instructions for making the round cake into all sorts of balls, so I took my basketball pattern from that, but had to freehand the "William" logo from a picture of a Wilson basketball I found online. I got the pan at Michael's for around $10, but they have them at Hobby Lobby for the same price, and the HL website has 40% off coupons regularly. I figure I can use the same pan for other things later...a Christmas ornament, Cinderalla's coach, a pumpkin, you get the idea.


    Just so you know, Jamie Lyn actually made TWO basketball cakes, because she divides up her celebrations into two parties -- one for family, and one for friends. Now that she has two kids with birthdays close together, she still throws two parties but integrates both themes in each. In our next installment, we'll see how she combined a Scooby Doo theme for her son with flowers for her daughter!

    I love seeing this kind of creativity on a budget! Often, I think it is the restraint of having to do it ourselves or find the best deals that actually brings out our imagination at its best. I hope this inspires some of you in your efforts to create a cost-effective birthday for your kids. If you have some pictures of your frugal party ideas that you would like to share, but you don't have a blog, e-mail me and I'll include them in future posts. Thanks again to Jamie Lyn for letting me show off her handiwork here on the blog.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    Win an Ice Cream Party for Your Neighborhood

    We have always been big fans of community-building here at Very Merry Events, and what better way to get to know someone that over a big bowl of ice cream? Edy's is once again sponsoring the Slow-Churned Neighborhood Salute, where you could win an ice cream block party for your neighborhood!

    All you have to do is write a 350 word essay (or less) on why you think your neighborhood should win! They give the grand prize to 1,500 winners, so if you are creative and original in your essay, you have a good chance to win! The contest runs now through May 30th and the winners are revealed in July. Go ahead, enter today!

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Free Stuff = Free Party

    Over at Wise Bread, Linsey just posted about her experience with a service that lets you throw house parties for free!

    Apparently, when a new product releases or a new TV series debuts, the companies behind those products and services will send thousands of households tons of free stuff to promote their "new thing." You can receive this free stuff just by applying for parties you are interested in and sharing those things with friends and neighbors!

    What a great way to throw a themed party right in your own home for little or no money. Having a House Party would provide a fantastic opportunity to reach out to your neighbors. I mean, who doesn't want free stuff? And by choosing and applying for the ones you are interested in, it means you can choose things you think might appeal to people you know. Also, the privacy policy seems pretty sound--at least, they allow you to send a letter to opt-out of third party requests for your personal information.

    Go check out the House Party website. If you have tried this, please let me know what you thought about the experience in the comments.

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Good Advice

    FrugalHacks offers some good advice on how to entertain without getting stressed out.

    Spring is Here!

    When the pollen begins covering my car, I know it is truly spring. If you are throwing a party soon and need some inspiration (especially since Easter has come and gone so early), try this Spring Picture Gallery from marthastewart.com.

    She includes links and how-to's for decorations, lighting, invitations, napkins, centerpieces and place cards. Pretty.

    My favorite are the rose napkins in a glass. Simple, reusable, and affordable, especially if you already have colored cloth napkins available.

    HT: Hostess with the Mostess, of course!

    Party Inspirations from Children's Books

    Our homes are filled with books of all kinds! What better way is there to find inspiration for a party than in the charming illustrations and events of your child's favorite stories?

    Over at plumpudding, Megan blogs about her unusual carrot cake inspired by the delightful book Shall I Knit You a Hat.

    She draws all sorts of ideas from her bookshelf, listing the work that inspired each one, ranging from bite-size cookies, a face-painting station, a pinata, to, of course, a book corner! Plans were in the works for a craft project, and I think it was a fantastic idea. I only wish I'd had a party like this when I was a little girl!

    To read more about Megan's party and her many book-ish inspirations, click here. Her blog, plumpudding, is a crafty resource on its own, so be sure to add it to your regular reading!

    This reminds me of a party I didn't attend but only heard about: a friend threw a Dr. Seuss-themed first birthday party for her son, Sam, complete with Dr. Seuss books as party favors. Of course he wore a custom tee with "Sam I Am" on the front, from the infamous Green Eggs and Ham. A similar idea could work well for twins, especially if you get those "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" onesies and perhaps make a Cat in the Hat Hat cake.

    Some of my favorites children's books that I think might make great party themes:

  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • The Real Mother Goose
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • The Little Engine That Could
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit


  • Not to mention the many books for older kids that could spark imaginations, from Harry Potter to The Chronicles of Narnia. I could write a whole series of posts on this. Perhaps I just might!

    What favorite books would you use for your kids' party themes?

    HT: The Motherload.

    Wednesday, April 9, 2008

    Entertaining on a Budget

    If you haven't yet figured it out from my frequent links, Jennifer Sbranti, otherwise known as The Hostess with the Mostess, is the reigning Queen of Parties. Originally a graphic designer, she now hosts lavish get-togethers with and for some famous folk.

    She has her own blog and contributes regularly to the Celebrations section of Real Simple Magazine, as well as other places around the web.

    I find her party planning ideas fascinating and wonderfully done, but not always budget-friendly, which is why I appreciated one of her recent articles:

    Entertaining on a Budget

    She offers some great ideas for dressing up your table and some basic tips for how to achieve a polished look with very little cost and almost no effort.

    Tuesday, April 8, 2008

    Jamie Lyn's First Birthday Balloon Cake

    My longtime friend Jamie Lyn sent me a series of amazing pictures from her children's birthday parties. She is especially talented at making her own cakes! I'll start with the first and include more pictures and ideas in subsequent posts. Believe me, you are going to love her latest frugal kids' party ideas! She reminds me that the first birthday is easy, but by the second, the kids usually want to have some say in their theme!

    This balloon cake was for her son Will's first birthday three years ago:



    Simple, cute, but also very creative! The balloon "strings" are actually licorice strands. She tells me she found affordable balloon napkins and plates at the Dollar Store. I could even imagine making a small balloon cake just for the birthday boy or girl...though they would probably have too much fun with the licorice to even get started on the cake! And wouldn't this be cute for triplets or other multiples?

    First Birthday Party Ideas and Beyond

    Over at the cradle, a website for new parents, the Hostess with the Mostess shares three theme ideas for a first birthday party. She includes great ideas for using pictures of your child as well as tips on how to tie it all together.

    Her first inspiration, Modern Tyke, includes bright colors and soft toys. Using your baby's favorite playthings are always good starting points for themes or centerpieces.

    My Variation: Construction Toy Party I'm thinking next year we might use a dump truck as a centerpiece to hold candy or flowers or even a little mini-cake. Just wheel it right up to the birthday boy! I would scatter a few more construction-themed toys around the yable or decorations. You would have the added bonus of being able to use the centerpieces for playtime after the party is over!

    Her Bedtime Story sets up tables to look like colorful, made beds with bright place settings.

    My Variation: The Un-sleepover Party I think this setting would work well for a sleepover party for little girls, even if you didn't actually sleepover! The girls could come in PJ's and bring their favorite stuffed animal, enjoy a meal "in bed" and then gather on blankets to watch a movie before their parents come pick them up. Probably good for ages 6-8 when they might not be ready for a full night's sleepover just yet.

    The Modern Zoo chocolate/pink theme she describes would work equally well for a baby shower! The idea of using animal cookies is just too cute, and with the modern twist, it adds just enough sophistication for a grown-up fete!

    Monday, April 7, 2008

    Best. Diaper Cake. Ever.

    Need a centerpiece for your next baby shower? Or want an aesthetically pleasing way to present a gift of diapers?


    Find detailed instructions and photos on how to make this beautiful and unique Diaper Cake over at AlphaMom! The secret? She stuffs a bottle of Champagne in the middle!

    If you're guest of honor isn't a drinker or alcohol isn't allowed at your party or you just think you'd better substitue, I think a bottle of sparkling cider or grape juice would be sufficient. But I love the idea of finding a bit of bubbly inside instead of just...more diapers. And her use of tissue paper is fantastic! It hides all those Sesame Street characters. Plus, she included some way-cute Ugly dolls! Love it!

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008

    Better than a Cold Bowl of Cereal (Part 2)

    In yesterday's post, I outlined some basic ideas on how to throw a monthly breakfast for your neighbors. Today, we are focusing on the main event -- the food!

    The $30 Feed-a-Crowd Breakfast Menu:

    2 9X13 pans Breakfast Casserole*
    2 pans Cinnamon Rolls (homemade or store-bought)
    1 pan biscuits
    Fresh Fruit
    Bagels or Doughnuts
    Jelly, Butter, Cream Cheese, etc.
    Vegetarian, though not vegan, option: Spinach Quiche (homemade)
    Orange, apple, or cranberry juice
    Coffee and fixins

    I've made all the above for around $25, minus the coffee.

    Optional substitutions or extras:
    Milk (I know milk is like gold around our house these days, but if you feel generous or have the extra funds, serve it up!)
    Croissants
    French Toast Casserole
    Waffles or Pancakes
    Scrambled Eggs and/or Grits
    Bacon Strips or Sausage, pre-cooked and kept warm on a platter

    *Our Redd family Breakfast Casserole recipe uses bread, eggs, milk, sausage, cheese, mustard powder and Worchestershire sauce, but there are other versions using grits, ham, bacon, and even Rotel for some kick. Southern cookbooks, especially those from churches, usually have the best versions.

    The breakfast casseroles come to about $4 each, even store-bought cinnamon rolls on sale can be as little as $1 each roll (I use 3-4), homemade biscuits cost pennies, but you can get the kind in a can on sale for $.50 sometimes (and through some experiementation, I actually found I preferred the store brand to Pillsbury, too!). Buy whatever fruit is on sale that week and make a salad -- it will last longer. Pick up bagels or doughnuts at the store (frozen bagels go on sale all the time, and if you let them thaw and then toast them, no one will ever no the difference) or from a local bakery.

    (If you are really, really cheap and can keep a secret...you can get free or almost free baked goods from stores like the Atlanta Bread Comapany and Panera if you go right before they close at night. They are required to throw any leftovers away, so are willing to sell them cheap or sometimes give them to you. But maybe you knew about this already?)

    Everything hinges on the presentation, after all. Even the most inexpensive meals can become the basis to a wonderful occasion with a little extra effort.

    If you serve the condiments in pretty little containers no one will every know you used the store-brand jelly or cream cheese. Same goes for fruit juice -- serve the reconstituted frozen kind in a nice glass picther. We always had little juices and coffee provided by the office, and I'm not a coffee drinker, so if any of you have ideas on how to get really good gourmet beans on the cheap, please let me know!

    I've found that you can make scrambled eggs or grits and keep them warm in a crock pot. We got two crock pots for our wedding, and these have come in handy many times!

    For smaller groups, made-to-order waffles are an extra treat. If you have a griddle (or two), and you have lots of assistance in the kitchen, other breakfast options that work well for larger groups include assembly-line pancakes, eggs, and hashbrowns.

    Most of our neighbors enjoy the treat of a (mostly) home-cooked hot breakfast. However, if you get tired of having the same thing month after month, have themes -- serve croissants for a French morning meal, or spice up the breakfast casserole or eggs with some green chiles, add some tortillas for wraps, and have a South-of-the-Border breakfast.

    If you are planning for a smaller crowd, why not make it more of a mid-morning affair and only serve ONE item -- hot, fresh cinnamon rolls, or a platter of doughnuts and some fruit? Sometimes the more intimate gatherings are the ones with the best conversations.

    If you enjoyed these ideas or have any suggestions of your own, please let me know! I'd love some community input! Also, if you have any breakfast recipes or ideas you'd like to share, please add them in the comments!

    Monday, March 31, 2008

    Better than a Cold Bowl of Cereal (Part 1)

    Have you ever wanted to get together regularly with your neighbors, but you just can't seem to find a good time to meet? Evenings are busy, the kids all have different bedtime schedules, and you don't want to take away from weekend plans.

    Well, if you don't mind getting up a little early, try hosting a Saturday morning breakfast or burnch once a month! A few less hours of sleep is worth it, trust me.

    When we were a CARES Team, this was one of the first regular events we instituted in our complex to get to know our neighbors, and I can testify that it was one of the most well-attended ongoing activities we had. (Of course, we also had folks who came, grabbed a plate of food, and ran off, but all our neighbors weren't so rushed. I'd hope yours would at least want to stay and say hello!) We were also on a limited budget, especially during the winter, and often only had less than $30 to spend to feed at least 25-30 people or more, so we got creative!

    The first rule of any good event is to make it inviting. Serve warm, yummy food! Your neighbors will also thank you for offering them the chance to eat something other than cold cereal or a breakfast bar, even if they do grab a plate and go!

    If you do plan to make this an ongoing neighborhood event, one way to defray costs is to have everyone bring a favorite breakfast item, even if they just pick up doughnuts from down the street. However, for the first time, you will probably want to provide everything yourself, as an act of hospitality and goodwill towards any new folks you might meet. In the next installment, I will provide inexpensive menu ideas that feed 30 people for less than $1/person.

    The easiest way to serve breakfast for a large group is buffet style. We use various dishes, crock pots, casseroles, platters, baskets with a cloth napkin to keep breads warm, really almost anything will do.

    As for what to serve on? At most Dollar Stores, you can find brightly colored tablecloths and paper napkins and plates if you are looking for cheap options for easy cleanup for a large group. If you plan to do this often and want to use paper products, the cheapest option is to go to a warehouse store and buy the extra-large quantity paper goods they sell to small businesses. I liven up plain forks, knives and plates with festive napkins.

    But, if you are hosting the event in your home and have the space (and the dishes), or if you just want to be more environmentally friendly and economical, feel free to set up a buffet on your kitchen counter with real plates--just make sure you recruit some help with washing the dishes!

    Once you have gotten to know your neighbors a little better, and you want to keep the Saturday brunch time going, another option is to rotate the location--and the hosts! Perhaps you'll want to spend one Saturday morning together at the park and serve bagels and cream cheese or bring along some biscuits, butter, and jam. Bring along a cooler with bottled juices or a thermos.

    If you know your neighbors REALLY well, why not make it even more casual and relaxing by letting the kids come over in their pajamas? Make it reminiscent of a Saturday morning when you were a kid and had all the time in the world. If you are hosting the brunch in your home, you can put in some DVD's of appropriate children's cartoons, perhaps some classics that even the adults might appreciate.

    These are some simple tips for a fabulous, yet frugal, Saturday morning breakfast event. If you decide to do something like this for your neighbors, or have in the past, please tell us about it in the comments or e-mail me with pictures!

    In my next installment: More Breakfast Menu Ideas!

    Friday, March 28, 2008

    Baby Shower for Adopted Little Girl

    I saw these beautiful photos at Katie Prentiss Photography from a recent baby shower for a little girl adopted from China, and I thought they were simply inspiring!

    I'm not sure how much these cute take-out box favors and gorgeous cake cost, but I'm sure you could make something similar with a little ingenuity. I bet your local bakery would attempt a similar cake if you are wary of attempting it yourself. Or, you could just press real flowers onto chocolate icing.

    For the favors, you can buy similar boxes at Michael's (or ask your local restaurant for free ones if you dare!) and decorate with computer-printed labels.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Cheap, Creative Centerpieces

    Well, it's time for spring and that means fresh ideas for brightening up our tables and party buffets with some simple, easy decorating ideas. Easter's over, so this year the bunnies and eggs might have to be put up a bit sooner than usual, but that's okay. There are plenty of other options available!

    One way to recycle grocery paper bags: spring "Basket" Boquets from Martha's site via Petit Elephant.

    For evening any time of the year, the new Celebrations editor at Real Simple's blog, Jennifer Sbranti, of Hostess with the Mostess, shares ideas for creative candlescapes.

    Also, upon searching through the Real Simple archives, I found these great "60-second centerpieces," for all those times when you have someone coming over and you realize that even though the center of your table is clean (at least), it is also bare and devoid of all warmth.

    Pillar Candles Classic. And if you're like me, you always have too many candles stored around the house anyway.

    Two kinds of fruit Maybe lemons and limes for spring color?

    Carnations and a Salad Bowl (Think pink or white for spring!)

    Plus, here's 17 more ways to dress up a table. Though meant for more wintry themes, they are easily adaptable. My favorites are using bottles of brightly colored soda, candy in a vase (leftover Easter jelly beans, anyone?), limes, and the ever-simple water and apples.

    Hello again!

    I'm just realizing this is becoming a collective of all the great frugal party ideas out there on the web. I am trying to fit in as many different types oF categories as I can, so that you can more easily find what you are looking for. I may group one or more ideas together on one post, but I will try to include multiple labels so that you can find it when you need to. Soon, I will also be installing a Google search button so that you can more easily find helpful hints and tips on the blog.

    As I get back into planning my own events this summer, I hope to include more of my own advice and experience as the weeks go by. For now, I might be digging through the archives of my little head to try and remember some of my favorites from the past.

    Again, if you have questions you would like answered or have suggestions for the site, please e-mail me! Thanks!

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    Carnation Garland

    Although some of the beautiful edibles showcased in this baby shower post at Bluelines may be a bit out of our frugal price ranges (though I'm sure you could make many of the foods at home), there was one idea that caught my eye.

    Cindy DiPrima, a stylist, crafted this beautiful flower garland from some cheap carnations. You could also use silk flowers or homemade paper flowers and achieve the same effect, I think. What a beautiful way to honor the soon-to-be mom (or a birthday girl, or a grandmother, or a bride-to-be!

    Monday, March 24, 2008

    Q&A: Debt-Free Party

    Amy at The Motherload asks her readers for help:

    In honor of our final payment to the company, I am going to have a wild and crazy party (within our means, of course). I was wondering if anyone had any fun ways to celebrate ridding yourself of credit card debt? I am looking for fun party ideas- cheesy ideas, wild ideas, symbolic ideas for celebrating.

    Remember, this is a party that has been four years in the making! I am ready to party like it's 1999...or um, something like that but a little bit hipper.

    I can't wait to get your feedback and ideas!


    Now this is a party idea that perfectly fits the theme of this blog: a frugal celebration of ending debt!

    Here are my suggestions:

    Throw a "thank-you" party for everyone along the way who helped you out of debt. Perhaps these were encouraging friends and family, a financial advisor, or even your sister-in-law who loaned you money once or the friend who suggested the book or website that led you along the road to financial freedom.

    Theme Idea: Man Doesn't Live on "Bread" Alone
    Dinner suggestions: pita bread and dips, sandwiches (maybe some soup, depending), bread pudding for dessert
    This doesn't have to cost much at all, especially if you buy bread on sale or make your own, but it would be a great way to thank all of those who have helped you meet your goals.

    Raid thrift/Goodwill stores for old games with play money, or just print your own. It might be spring-like weather then, so if you are throwing the party outside, tie/staple/tape the play money to strings and hang them over the branches. Or, make a banner with the play money.

    Activities could include, what else but money-themed board games?! (Monopoly, Life, Settlers of Catan, etc.) If you don't have any, check around on your local Freecycle or at thrift stores. Some people have way too many games and would be glad to get rid of theirs!

    Also, at the end of the night, especially if the party is outside, you could ceremoniously BURN your old credit card that you finally paid off. Doesn't that feel good?

    If you have any others you'd like to share with Amy, please post them at her blog!

    Friday, March 21, 2008

    The Mad Hatter Would Be Proud

    Elizabeth over at A Purposed Life wrote in to share with us her latest celebration of her daughter's 6th birthday: a tea party for under $35!

    I love the idea that the little girls can take home their own teacups, which means the next time they get together, they can have a tea party of their own!

    She also made individual cupcake holders out of glasses and decorated them with cute blue and brown polka dot ribbon. In fact, she used grosgrain ribbon throughout the decor! She even snazzed up a plain bowl with ribbon!

    (If you are looking for an inexpensive ribbon resource, I buy mine at Garden Ridge when it goes on sale for $.25/roll and dig through the bins until I find ones I like. My husband wonders why I have so much ribbon stockpiled, but this is one of the reasons!)

    Be sure to visit Elizabeth's blog to see more of her tea party ideas, including pretty pictures!

    More ABC Block party ideas



    From the small object, this wonderful alphabet ribbon. She uses it to label cloth napkins, but it might also be nice on a shirt...just spell out the child's name letter by letter! You could use iron-on transfer paper or just good old hot glue. Very cute! As seen on sk*rt.

    Something else I thought about for the block birthday party, but didn't execute (because I left the blocks at home!) was using wooden alphabet blocks in cylyndrical vases on the table. You probably have both (or at least a large glass bowl) available already, and it would make a quick and easy (and cheap) centerpiece for almost any kid's party.

    (Photo from jek at flickr. Love her photos! Go check them out)

    Birthday Decorations: ABC Block Theme

    Here are some more photos from our son's first birthday party.


    Inspiration: Homemade Caramel Cake from Great-Grandmother

    I have no idea of the recipe, but I imagine you could use these ABC block cake instructions.


    Napkins, from Target

    I chose brightly colored squares to imitate the "block" theme and incorporated the same colors throughout the party with brightly colored plates, forks, spoons, and streamers from Party City/Hobby Lobby. I also used a rainbow blanket (thanks, Jen!) as a table runner to add color.


    ABC Block Decorations

    Aunt E made these cute oversized blocks using free boxes from target, lots of packing tape, the back side of some wrapping paper, brightly colored foam, and hot glue. She used our little guy's initials and varied the size of the blocks. A very inexpensive, fun idea for block party decorations!

    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    Twice the Fun

    Whitney from I Know a Mom recently hosted a baby shower for a friend who is expecting twins.

    She shares her inexpensive and elegant ideas for a tablescape decoration using peas! ($3 for 3 bags)

    The theme? "Two Peas, One Pod" Brilliant! Be sure to check out her beautiful photos.

    Pretty Parties

    Design Mom recently threw a Pretty Blue Party for her daughter.


    I especially liked the mini strawberry shortcakes.

    She also includes this photo of these water bottles from a recent family baby shower. These labels could be adapted for almost any party and made on the computer! Brilliant idea!

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    DIY Birthday Shirt and Bib

    Just a few weeks ago, our son celebrated his first birthday. In honor of the occasion, my sisters-in-law and I came up with some crafty projects. Here are the first two, with basic intructions that you can adapt for your own use.


    First Birthday Shirt
    Materials:
    Long-sleeve 12 month tee, $1.99 from Target clearance rack
    Fabric from old shirt, free from Aunt Amy's closet
    Needle and thread, free from Grandpa

    Draw the number or shape you wish to use on a piece of paper. Trace onto fabric with pencil. Cut fabric 1/4" larger than design all the way around. Iron the edge so there is a crease all the way around. Sew on using embroidery stich of your choice, beginning from underside of fabric. Even for a novice seamstress like myself, it will at least last through one wearing and possibly at least one washing!



    Cupcake Bib
    Designed by Amy Redd

    Materials:
    Plain bib, $1 from Hobby Lobby
    Colored felt, from Hobby Lobby
    Needle and thread, again, free
    Hot glue and glue gun

    Trace out the design you would like to create on construction paper as a guide. Then, cut out the shapes and trace onto felt. Cut out all the assorted felt pieces you will be using and include a backing piece that it about 1/4" larger than the total design. Stitch the pieces to the background piece, and use hot glue to attach the design to the bib.

    Amy created a simple cupcake design by putting a white icing shape and yellow cupcake paper shape on a bright blue background. By adding a candle, colored "sprinkles" and decorative stitching, she really made it festive.