We’ve all been there! A birthday is coming up and the birthday boy or girl announces they want a (insert character here) party. The problem is sometimes that character isn’t overflowing the shelves at Target. So how do you plan a party for an obscure character. Here are my four easy tips that I used to plan a Marie from the Aristocats party for my daughter. Take the mystery out of planning a killer party!
With the Fourth of July looming, we’re taking a break from the camping series to provide you with all you ever needed to know about throwing the ultimate backyard party! There is nothing so fun as an outdoor party and you can really take your party to the next level by following a few simple steps….
I’m an old soul and I love traditional entertaining! I think it absolutely has a place in modern hospitality. I love planning large get-togethers, with full sit down meals that include dessert. Getting the invites out weeks in advance. But, it’s also 2017 and I have two toddlers, so sometimes I have to throw out my grandmother’s rule book and find new ways to connect with people. I’m still the hostess, I’m arranging the avenue through which people are reconnecting, but it just doesn’t look like you’d think. This series focuses on thinking outside of the box when it comes to entertaining. Enjoy!
Family Movie Night
You all LOVED my Holiday Classics movie night ideas so much I had to revisit the topic for movies that can be watched all year round. What’s great about this idea, is that it’s no trouble to invite another family to join in on the fun! This sort of fun can be easily dialed up or down depending on the level of effort you have to offer. So, without further ado, here is some ideas to set your wheels spinning!
Curious George (2006, 1 hr 26 min)
Animals and adventures abound in this family friendly favorite. It’s excellent for the pre-school set but still entertaining for the adults. Bring some of the fun off the screen by creating a little scavenger hunt of your own. If children are not reading age yet, use pictures to guide them to the next clue. A box of chocolate coins covered in gold foil are a perfect treasure to discover at the end of the hunt. If the kids are old enough for arts and crafts, kids can make masks of their favorite jungle animal using construction paper, crayons, paper plates and wooden craft sticks to wear on their hunt.
Toy Story (1995, 1 hr 21 min)
A favorite of both young and old, Toy Story is a great option for a joint family movie night. Swing by the party store and pick up some rocket-ship plates and napkins and order a pizza to create your own Pizza Planet. Encourage the kids to bring their own favorite toy to share the evening with. For even more fun, see if the parents still have their special toy kicking around to bring too. This is sure to bring out the youthful innocence of all your guests!
Cars (2006, 1 hr 57 min)
Nothing is more fun than a drive-in movie. Unfortunately, there are only about 300 drive-in movie theaters left in the US. Luckily, you can recapture the magic in your own backyard! Visit your local appliance shop and find enough boxes for all attending children, big enough that they could sit in them. Then provide the kids with paper plates, construction paper, crayons and markers to transform these ordinary boxes into their own personal hot rod. Once their finished, line them up in front of the screen and let the film roll! The kids will last longer in their cars if you provide pillows and blankets so they can make their own little nest.
The Lego Movie (2014, 1 hr 40 min)
A newer favorite, the Lego Movie is lots of fun for everyone. Start the evening out by providing a bunch of Legos and encouraging everyone, parents and kids, to be their own Master Builder! If they need a little more guidance, you can provide a stack of cards with suggestions on them. Pick a card and attempt to build it. You can offer prizes for the most accurate, the silliest and the most creative.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
(1971, 1 hr 29 min)
It’s so fun to introduce your kids to classics from your childhood and what kid doesn’t love chocolate?! Bake some cupcakes in advance and set up a DIY cupcake decorating bar. Set out frosting and an assortment of candy that would make Willy Wonka proud! Let each guest create their own chocolate masterpiece to munch on during the movie.
I hope these ideas have gotten your wheels turning. I’d love to know if you have another idea for an interactive movie night! It’s a great alternative to trying to plan a meal for another family. What are some of your family favorite movies?
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There is one universal truth when you turn one, “It’s a Small World After All.” My husband is a huge Disney fan and I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that we are a Disney family. So I’m always looking for creative, not so obvious ways to incorporate Disney into the kids’ lives. While Pinteresting this past summer, I came across some “It’s a Small World” first birthday parties and I loved the idea for our sweet baby girl. I found there are two color scheme approaches – a very feminine light pink, white and gold or a livelier jewel tone style. I always prefer bright colors so I totally went for the jewel toned option.
Even though my husband is a graphic designer, I always hit Etsy first to see what sorts of invitations and printable decor might be available for a party. I figure if $30 saves him hours of work in the evenings, it’s worth it to me to have more time with him. I found a super cute set of “Small World” printables from the Etsy shop “Hello Darling Design Co.” out of Tampa, FL. Jaime was a dream to work with and I got a custom invitation, a custom banner, cupcake wrappers and toppers for $32. Once those were selected, my vision for the rest of the party came together.
Over the top tulle
No girl can turn one without a tutu in my opinion so I knew I had to get the perfect one for Ivy’s “Small World” birthday party. I found several tutorials online on how to make your own but my favorite was done using a crocheted headband (I bought mine at Hobby Lobby but here’s a link to a similar style – Crochet Wide Elastic 1.5 Inch Tight Headbands for Baby). I picked up four rolls of tulle (orange, yellow, bright pink and blue like this from Amazon – ORANGE Tulle 6in x 300ft (100 yards) roll.) and alternated those around the edge of headband. Here’s a link to a step by step tutorial. I decided I wanted it to be really full so I did a second layer one row higher. I then used a similar technique to make a tulle skirt for the edge of her highchair tray which I attached using adhesive Velcro dots. Lastly, I draped a few lengths of the tulle across the archway where I hung her happy birthday banner.
Quick and Easy Disposables
I usually try to avoid using paper products because of, you know, the environment and all that. But for certain parties, it just makes sense. I was lucky and happened across the perfect napkins and straws to match my colors at Ikea so I was able to pick them up for super cheap. I then grabbed some really basic plates and a plastic tablecloth at the Dollar Tree. My brilliant idea for this party, and for entertaining with kids in general, was to hit up the local restaurant supply store, Cash ‘n Carry, and grab a sleeve of small, clear plastic cups with lids for straws. No more wondering how I was going to scrounge up enough sippy cups for this crowd or keep track of which one belongs to which. Now you could manage spills with lids and ownership with a quick flick of a Sharpie!
Similar Straws: Ikea Flexible Soda Straws
Similar Napkins: Summer Bright Floral Luncheon Napkins
Similar Cups: Plastic Clear Cups with Flat Lids
As I mentioned in my previous posts about birthdays in general, you need to think about which area of the party you’d enjoy putting some extra effort into. For me, this was the desserts. I’ve recently become obsessed with watching dessert videos on YouTube, my favorite channel is “My Cupcake Addiction” with Elise Strachan but my inspiration for Ivy’s cake actually came from this video by “Rosie’s Dessert Spot.” I used her technique of filling your piping bag with a deep colored frosting and then gradually adding white as your run out until the color shifts to white to achieve this ombre effect. My goal was for the effect to look either like water or clouds – I didn’t really care which – and I think I achieved the desired effect. I did use my graphic design husband to tweak some elements from Ivy’s birthday invitation to make the city and the hot air balloons. He blew up the city scape across the bottom of the invite and made one long strip about 20 inches long on cardstock. I used an Exacto knife careful cut around the roof tops and then affixed the two ends together so I had sort of a city themed paper crown. I knew I didn’t want the paper nestled too deeply in the frosting so I attached three wooden skewers to the inside of crown and slowly inserted them into the cake so it looked like the city was floating in the clouds. Chris also enlarged the hot air balloons, added a “1” to the front of the biggest one and printed out two sets for me on card stock. I taped them back to back on wooden skewers and inserted them in the center of the cake so they were rising out of the center of the city. I’m so pleased with how this turned out!
For the cupcakes, I wanted a similar icing effect so I filled one bag with the bright blue icing and one with white icing. I cut the tips off of both of them and inserted them into a third bag fitted with a large star tip. Then, I pushed the icing out until both colors were present. When you apply the icing in a swirl pattern, you end up with a two toned effect that really tied in well with the bigger cake. The cupcake wrappers and toppers from Hello Darling Design Co were the perfect touch to bring the whole thing together.
I actually hosted two events for Ivy’s birthday as I mentioned in the previous post. A kid-friendly pancake party for just our friends and a pizza dinner for family. For the kid party, I wanted something universally liked and a little interactive. The pancake bar was the perfect match! Pancakes were made from a boxed mix and I put out a tiered tray of different fruits to top the pancakes and some different syrup options. I also included some fun-treat toppings like sprinkles and chocolate chips. To round everything else, I served frozen sausage links which were a breeze to heat up in the microwave and orange juice, water and Crystal Lite Peach Iced Tea (my favorite!) I used some of the paper napkins laid out as slightly overlapping diamonds to set everything on. My bright colored Fiestaware fit in perfectly with the theme for serving.
I hope this lights up your imagination when it comes to your next kid party! If you end up throwing an “It’s a Small World” birthday party, be sure to share the photos with me! I’d love to see it. Just remember when you’re planning your next party, do only what you love and not what you perceive others to expect. Remember, your friends just want to play with you – and celebrate another year of surviving parenthood!
Who doesn’t love pizza? Regardless of age, gender or religious persuasion, pizza is the great equalizer! And a DIY Pizza Bar, what’s more fun than that?! Here’s the scoop on the Pizza Bar I set up for a recent girls’ night and how I made it special without being overwhelming!
Pick Your Toppings
When you’re setting up a pizza bar, you have to think about your audience. For a girls night, I went a little gourmet but also tried to keep the toppings on the lower calorie side. For kids, you’d want to stick to the tried and true. And for a mixed crowd, make sure you have a lot of meat options as those guys tend to love the meat lovers options. Here are the toppings I featured for my girls’ night:
- Red Sauce (Tomato Paste seasoned with a little water added means less mess than regular sauce!)
- Pesto (I love the Kirkland brand from Costco and it’s a great price!)
- Rotisserie Chicken Chunks (from the deli counter)
- Bacon Bits (Also went with the big bag from Costco)
- Turkey Italian Sausage
- Turkey Pepperoni
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Green Onions
- Black Olives
- Artichoke Hearts
- You could add sun-dried tomatoes too!
- Other options are feta and crumbled blue cheese.
- I happened to have several seasoning blends from Tastefully Simple on hand that lend themselves to pizza (Garlic Garlic, Onion Onion, and Spinach Herb) so I set those out to shake on. If you don’t have those, try setting out Italian Seasoning and Garlic Salt.
For the crust, I used Stonefire Mini Naan also from Costco. If this isn’t an option for you, I recommend sticking with something that’s already baked like a pita bread, or a fancy toast, don’t try to mess with actual raw crust. It’s always more hassle then it’s worth! Food prep was minimal but I did chop the veggies and brown the sausage during nap time earlier in the day so I’d be ready to go and less stressed right before the event.
Set the scene
Now the fun part! Here’s how I made the pizza bar pop without too much extra work. I raided my wrapping paper stash for some brown paper (Pick up a roll from Amazon here – Crown Display, Kraft Paper Roll, Brown) and covered my whole counter with it. Then I laid out the dishes I was going to use and went through with a pencil to write the labels. I tried to think of fun and creative names for some of the items just to make it all a little more engaging. For example, instead of “Sauces,” I wrote “Feeling Saucy?” (well, actually I wrote “Feeling Saucey?” which was apparently misspelled, whoops!) and instead of just “Bacon,” I wrote, “Bring on the Bacon!” After I had it all laid out in pencil, I went over it with Sharpie that coordinated with my dishes.
Baking and Serving
For baking the pizzas, I found that since most of the ingredients were refrigerated prior to serving, the pizzas needed to be baked at around 350 degrees to warm everything up but if you only baked them it took forever for them to brown. The perfect combination seemed to be baking for about 10 minutes to warm everything up and then switching to the broiler for a couple minutes to really melt and toast the cheese. I was able to do mine in batches of four to six pizzas. Next to the oven, I set up a cutting board with a pizza cutter, large knife and kitchen shears so the guests could use their preference to cut their pizza (or not)! I rounded out the whole thing with a selection of wine, a pitcher of water and a pitcher of Crystal Lite Peach Iced Tea.
Why I love DIY food
So, here’s the scoop on why I like these sorts of DIY food prep bars – and it’s not because I’m lazy! There are two big reasons. First, it makes it easy to accommodate food preferences and allergies. I noticed my girlfriend who is gluten intolerant, helped herself to a bowl of the turkey Italian sausage with some veggies and cheese skipping the crust all together. Secondly, it gives guests an activity to start interactions. Even if someone is sort of the odd man out at the event, she can find small talk that focuses on the food to start making connections with others. It’s the same reason groups do, team building exercises. By being presented with a shared task it brings a sense of camaraderie and togetherness which ultimately makes the party more entertaining and successful!
I’d love to know what you do to bring guests together! Have you ever had a fun build-it-yourself bar at a party? Share your ideas in the comments below!