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


    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!)
    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!