James' grandma contacted me clear back in February to do his party again this year. At first he wanted to do a Star Wars theme, and I was so excited because I'm a total nerd, lol! But then he changed his mind and wanted the smartphone/tablet game he is into at the moment, Plants vs Zombies. At first I was disappointed, but the more I got into the planning, the more excited I got! This game, for those who don't know, is basically a tower defense style game where you place various "plants" as weapons in your yard, to protect your home against invading zombie hordes. The graphics are adorable and the names of the plants are fun, plants like Pea-shooters, Bonk Choy, Wall-nuts, and Cabbage-pults. The decorations came from a wide variety of places including Ebay, Etsy, random blogs, and of course the old standby, the wholesale branch of Oriental Trading. (They provided the inflatable brains and other fun stuff that was perfect for the theme, though they didn't have any specific PvZ items).
I was very grateful to be able to hire an assistant and photographer to help with this party. Enjoy the photos!
When longtime client R asked me to put together a Minecraft party for her 9 year old grandson, I had to do some research first. And by research I mean I had to buy Minecraft Pocket Edition and install it on my phone, and play for a few hours so I could get a feel for the game. I definitely "get" why it's so addictive! There is something so fun and relaxing about a world where everything fits neatly together (it was balm for my slightly OCD soul) and where you can do whatever you want, go anywhere, build anything.
Since the pixelated aesthetic of the game is so well known and is part of what makes it so novel for today's kids (just look at the high quality 3-D graphics of the other games they play, such as Lego Star Wars!) I wanted to make sure to capture that in the decorations. I designed and made the grass block and dandelion centerpieces, which both the kids and parents found delightful, and hand-cut the pixelated edge on the green tablecloths. Since the spot where the food buffet needed to be had no wall behind it, I also designed a freestanding "stone wall" backdrop so I would have somewhere to hang the banners and bunting, and which would work as the centerpiece of all the decor.
Since so much of the game is about crafting and collecting, I decided those activities had to be a main part of the party plan. I designed a craft where the kids would decorate a "Creeper head" box, since Creepers are the most unique and well-known monsters in Minecraft. (Personally, I grew to despise them, since they would "creep" up on you while you were building or exploring, and then self-detonate in a big explosion, destroying what you were building and often killing me or my adorable blocky farm animals, too.) But anyway, the kids had a blast designing and creating their Creeper head crafts, and then they got to go over to the themed candy buffet and "collect" candies (with Minecraft-specific labels) to fill the box and take home.
I also painted faces, which was a lot of fun. Unfortunately I was too busy painting to take any pictures, however. But let it be known I can paint a mean Creeper or Enderman!
The food and snack buffet was a big hit too. All the food was themed and kid-friendly, and the only things Grandma had to order were the cake and pizza, I brought the rest of the food and all the labels and containers and so forth.
Someone swapped the labels between the "sticks" (pretzels) and the "trapdoors" (cheese crackers). Both are delicious dipped in "Magma cream" (cheese dip), however.
The decorated "Creeper" and "Enderman" juice boxes were fun, but the kids liked the "potion bottle" water bottles just as much if not more! Some kids even used up space that could have gone to candy, putting water bottles in their "creeper head" to take home!
All in all it was a fun and successful party! The activities were perfect for a group of 8-10 year olds. If I do this theme again for younger kids sometime, I have more ideas for active type activities which may be a better fit for a younger crowd.
Does your child want a party based on a favorite game, book, or show? Something the party store doesn't carry? Call me, I can make it happen!
Since I finally got around to building a theme parties page on my site, I got to thinking about theme parties and how I love them. I love them so much, my husband swears it's an addiction.
If so, it's an addiction that started early. Pictured is my first ever theme party, which I planned and threw for my little brother David's 5th birthday. I was 13. That's me in the middle of the above photo, in the blue cowl. David loved his Castle Lego, so I decided on a Medieval theme. Since my parents already had 5 kids at this point (they ended up having a total of 10. Yes, they were/are crazy, but I love them anyway) I had a very limited budget to work with, and this being 1993 and not having access to the Internet, I was limited to what our local party store happened to have in stock, which did not include any medieval themed items, so we had to get creative. I turned solid metallic color party hats into princess hats for the girls and crowns for the boys. We made capes and other costume items from scraps of velour fabric, we had a medieval "feast" and Robin Hood (my brother Stephen, then 11) made an appearance and had a big sword fight with the little kids. I took them on a treasure hunt around our house and yard, ending in them finding the treasure chest with all the loot bags of party favors inside. The party was a big hit with the kids; and it seems it made a big impression on me too, because 23 years later I'm still putting together theme parties! And I still love repurposing and creating my own party decor, costumes, games, and favors!
If your child is begging for an unusual theme, something that's not available at the party store.. Give me a call! That's what I do best!
I had a great time painting these three models for the annual Edmonds Fasion Show! They were representing the Fabric of Life Boutique, which carries fair-trade handcrafted items from around the world, and is actually the outgrowth of a non-profit which supports a school for girls in Africa. More info is on their website at www.fabricoflife.org.
These three models were representing various products at the boutique.
The one on the left is a Global Spirit Doll. These are small beaded dolls made by girls in West Africa, for the purpose of spreading happiness! Her face is painted like one of the intricate African beads from which the dolls are made.
The model in the middle is representing the products from the Snow Leopard Trust, which provides an alternate form of income from traditional handcrafts to families in the mountains of Nepal, so they do not depend entirely on raising cattle... So they do not need to hunt and kill all the endangered snow leopards, which occasionally kill some of their cattle. The snow leopard trust helps in practical ways to teach people to respect and value their beautiful native cat, while still providing for their families.
The model on the right was modeling a dress made from bubble wrap, representing the many products they carry made from recycled materials, and several of the lovely handcrafted purses, wallets, and bags, made from the gorgeous fabrics hand-dyed by the girls at Fabric of Life Foundation's school in West Africa. Her fanciful face design features both "bubbles" and an abstract design reminiscent of the tye-dyed fabrics featured on several of her purses.
It was a very fun evening, and all three models were a huge hit!
(Click here for the full article on Alphamom.com)
This is a great little article from the author of the FANTASTIC blog www.filthwizardry.com. She made these costumes and swords for "Talk Like A Pirate Day", but of course they would also be fabulous for a pirate birthday party too! And the swords are simple and easy (they're actually made from newspaper!) and would be popular with both boys and girls. And personally, I think those little bandana skirts would be SUPER cute using striped bandanas, if you could find those! For some reason, stripes just look oh-so-piratey.
Great, simple instructions! What a special memory for a birthday girl.
I just read a great article on CNN.com that I wanted to share with you, on kids with allergies at birthday parties. Don't kill the birthday guest
Believe me, I have been there... I was a kid with food allergies. Now I am an adult with food allergies. In case any of you thoughtful, hospitable parents wonder why I generally turn down (politely!) any offers of cake or ice cream or food from the buffet at your party, that is why. I don't make a big deal about it... I have never been comfortable with drawing attention away from the fun birthday celebration to myself and my health issues, especially since I am there to entertain, not to eat cake. :-) But the article points out a lot of good ideas and considerations to keep in mind when planning a party, ways for you as a host(ess) to be considerate of your child's young friends who may have allergies.
Contrary to some people's mistaken ideas, kids with allergies are NOT just fussy, and we are not "faking it," or "trying to get attention" and it is not something that can be simply ignored. I have heard so many horror stories of clueless people serving someone a food they are allergic to on purpose, to "help them get over themselves and stop the drama" and the allergic person needing to be rushed to the hospital or jabbed with an epi-pen! I know none of my gentle readers would consider doing anything like that, and thankfully with all the news stories about allergies lately, more and more people are coming to recognize allergies for the serious problem that they are. I myself am highly allergic to peanuts, among other things, to the point that even someone who has been eating peanuts shaking my hand and getting peanut oil on me will make me break out in an itchy rash! Just being in the same room with an open jar of peanut butter, or where people are eating peanuts, can give me mild asthma symptoms and make my eyes start to water. Thankfully my allergy is not life-threatening, that is why I don't stipulate "please no peanuts" in my party contract, :-) however being around peanuts does make me seriously uncomfortable for quite a while afterward.
And no, those with allergies are not expecting the whole menu or party to revolve around them and their dietary needs... it's embarrassing enough as it is not to be able to eat what everyone else is eating, they certainly are not trying to get more attention. Just having a few options that are allergy-friendly, such as sliced fresh fruit, dairy-free sorbet, and pretzels (for those who are not allergic to gluten) will be better than nothing. If you find out in advance (and usually parents will tell you) that one of your guests has a specific allergy, just making a little extra effort to provide them some options (picking up a gluten-free cupcake and a little tub of dairy-free ice cream for them, for example) can make you the coolest parent ever! Just a bit of forethought makes all the difference.
I was just reading a FABULOUS book called "That Was The Best Party Ever" by Sharron Werlin Krull, and she has an excellent way of handling the present opening portion of any child's party! Often, this is where the party dissolves into chaos... all the kids are shoving their gift into the birthday child's face, others are begging to play with some of the toys that have been opened... and it's easy to see why some parents try to avoid it all by opening the gifts after the guests have left. However, opening gifts later doesn't allow the guests to enjoy seeing the birthday child's reaction and how their gift was appreciated! And it doesn't allow the birthday child to look them in the face and say "thank you!"
Sharron recommends solving all these problems by turning the gift opening into an organized game, in fact the last game of the party. The basic game is that all the kids sit in a circle, with their gift to the birthday child behind their back. The birthday child sits in the middle of the circle. An adult or older child has charge of a large trash can or trash bag for wrappings, and another adult controls the music and takes notes on who gave what (to help with writing thank-you notes later!). A large stuffed animal or other item (in keeping with whatever the party theme was! So for example, perhaps a wand at a fairy party, a bear dressed as a pirate for a pirate party, and so on) is passed around the circle as music is played. When the music is paused, whoever is holding the item gets to give their gift to the birthday child! The birthday child opens the gift, and stands up and turns around so everyone can see the gift and "ooh and ahh" over it, then the birthday child turns to the child who gave the gift (it's easy to remember who, because they are still holding the pirate bear or whatever!) and says "Thank you _________!" Then the gift is given to an adult who puts it away for now. No opening packages or taking toys out, because they are in the middle of the gift opening game! Then, the music starts again, the bear or other item is passed, and the game continues until everyone has had a chance to give their gift to the birthday child!
This is a perfect activity for while the parents are arriving to pick up their kids, as they will doubtless be impressed by how calm and well-organized all the kids are! Plus, the adult in charge of the music can subtly control who gets to give their gift next, so if someone needs to leave before the game is finished, that can be easily arranged. :-)
There are a lot of other variations to this game too, such as:
Just found this video... These cupcakes are so very cute, and actually pretty simple to do! These would be especially cute, I think, if they were baked in either shiny gold or skull-and-crossbones cupcake papers. :-) I always think cupcakes are fun for kid's parties, because they are much easier to serve than cake which has to be cut and served up. And making and decorating your own cupcakes is a great way to save money so you can afford some great party entertainment! (hint hint)
On Friday night I had a BLAST doing regular Henna and Bling Henna for conference attendees of the annual American Pharmacist's Association (APhA). Here are some photos!
Below is my first-ever bling henna dragon!
And my first-ever bling henna fairy!
Here I am with the Elvis impersonator who was also at the event! What fun!
I love my job. :-)
My adventures as a party planner and kids' entertainer! And lots of party inspiration too!