Friday, May 16, 2014

Nautical Party Part 2: Menu and Activities

Welcome back!  At this point you've probably checked out Part One of Ben's birthday party where I described the decorations. Now that those were under way, I had to start working on the activities and the menu. The age range for children attending the party was six months through twelve years old, so I needed to find a activities and a menu that would be suitable for all ages.  

In my experience, bouncy balls are a universal crowd-pleaser.  My first purchase was 10 large, red and blue striped balls for only $2.50 each and 4 smaller balls for only $1.00 each. Some of the balls were grouped together as "buoys" and the rest were spread throughout Lake Ben.  

Bouncy Balls as Buoys 

These red and white hula hoops were only $1.00 each!  They became our "life preservers".   

$1.00 Hula Hoops as Life Preservers

The great thing about the balls and hula hoops is that they can be used for another event.  For example, they fit well with an Americana theme because of the colors.  For a Candyland theme, the balls can become hard candies and the hula hoops, peppermint rings.  Between parties, Ben and his friends can enjoy playing with them - bonus! 

Our trampoline became the "deck" for the older kids jump on, and a mini bounce house was borrowed from a friend to be a "cabin" for the toddlers.  Thinking of safety, I made signs for the trampoline restricting it to two jumpers at one time, but that rule was promptly ignored by the kiddos. :) 
Trampoline as the Boat Deck
Finally, while picking up my son's toys on the morning of the party I noticed that two of his ride-on toys (hand-me-downs from older cousins) fit into our red and blue color scheme so, after making a quick sign, they became our "jet ski rentals".  I love it when you can repurpose items that are literally just lying around in the backyard in such a fun way!

Here is an overview of the activities: 

Inexpensive Nautical Activities
Inexpensive Nautical Activities

The menu was actually the first thing to be chosen because I needed to know how much money would be left in the budget after the food and beverage expenses for decorations and activities.  As much as decorations add to the festivities, food is the most important element.  Hungry guests are likely to leave a party pretty quickly if there isn't a nice spread.  If you have a modest budget, I suggest scheduling your event between mealtimes so that you can provide less hearty provisions. 

My downfall for personal parties in the past has been that I offer way too many options.  I spend the morning of the party stressed out about preparing the food, and then I have tons of food leftover.  This time I decided to make things easy and offer just two entrees, two sides, and two snacks.  It is more cost and time efficient to make a few items in bulk than it is to make a dozen items. 

The entree items were Meatball Subs and  Macaroni & Cheese, well, Seashells & Cheese to go along with the theme. For the submarines, I just used frozen meatballs and some doctored up Prego. :) For the mac and cheese, I used a recipe that I found on Erin's DC Kitchen.  The portions listed on her site filled one 12 3/4 x 10 3/8 aluminum steam table pan.  I made 6 total pans and wound up with two pans leftover after the party. 

Mac & Cheese for the kids and Bacon Jalapeno Mac & Cheese for the adults
Modifications from original recipe:
Plain Version: Instead of Lactaid I used 1.5 cups of 2% milk and a 1/2 cup of Fat Free Half and Half because that is what I already had in my fridge.

Bacon Jalapeno Version:   I added a half package of Hormel Real Bacon Crumbles and 1/3 cup of Mt. Olive Diced Jalapenos (with the liquid strained).

Our healthy sides were a fruit bowl and a tiered server of crudite. 

Seaweed & Ruffage
For our snacks (and centerpieces), we had Fish & Chips (Goldfish and Cape Cod Kettle Chips), which was an idea I found through this pin from Rue Rococo.

Nautical Menu

For the cake, I really wanted to have a 3-tiered, nautical, fondant cake.  In order to have that I would needed to sacrifice a lot of the decor.  I was not willing to do that.  I mean, let's face it, this was a baby's birthday party not a wedding. I have a galvanized, tiered stand from Pottery Barn that worked well as a cupcake tower and gave a similar visual impact as a 3-tiered cake. Baking the cupcakes was 75% less expensive than purchasing them premade, and my wonderful mother volunteered to do the baking.  She matched the icing to a ship steering wheel that I found at Marshall's.  The stand was placed on a vintage sewing machine table that I purchased at a local thrift store for $7.00 (!) and in front of a screen that I already had. 

Nautical Cupcake Display

It was very inexpensive to gussy up the stand, I added a 2" grosgrain ribbon along the edges.  If you hot glue the ribbon together where it meets at the back of the stand for a tight fit you'll be able to easily slide the ribbon off the stand after the party.  For the "cake" topper, I painted a $5.00 unfinished birdhouse that I bought from Michael's.  Then I made a decal out of craft paper and hot glued it onto the front of the painted birdhouse.  Finally, I cut a large hole in the bottom of completed lighthouse so it would fit over the top of the stand (I should say "hacked" instead of "cut" because it was not pretty...).

Customized Pottery Barn Tiered Stand
For beverages, I served bottled water, sweet tea, and lemonade. My friend, suggested making one of the drinks blue and placing fish in the serving container to make it "Sea Water".  I loved that idea, but I couldn't find fish at the Dollar Store.  They did have a shark though, so I made a "Shark Attack Lemon Aid Station" with strawberry lemonade, thinking that the dark pink color would would look like bloody water.  Then my corny sense of humor kicked in with "Sloop John Tea", based on one of my favorite Beach Boys songs, Sloop John B.

nautical beverage station

All in all, I was happy with the results of the event plan.  And I think Ben's guests had a lot of fun.  Thanks for stopping by - I hope that you were able to find some ideas for your next party!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nautical Party Part 1: Decor and Favors

For the past year I have enjoyed being a Stay-At-Home mom.  It has been extremely rewarding, but I have really missed my job as an Event Planner.  My baby boy, Ben, turned one on March 30th, and I was almost as excited to plan his party as I was about celebrating this milestone!  I decided on a nautical theme for his party.  I know it's not the most original idea, but it sure was a lot of fun to plan. :) 

A few days before his birthday
Ben, refusing to smile, on his first birthday
Now, I am the first to admit that sometimes I go "overboard" with decorations (props to my friend, I'm a Nola Girl, for that gem of a joke).  My husband gave me a strict budget  for the party.  With that budget we needed to feed approximately 50 people, so I had to get creative with the decor.  A couple of weeks before the party, I sat down with my craft supplies and got to work.  Please excuse the imperfections.  :)  If this had been a professional party, I wouldn't have had so much hand-written/homemade decor, but I loved giving my son's party my personal touch.

In my opinion, the best event decorations are ones that can be used after the event, so I designed an 18x24" poster that could be hung in Ben's bedroom when the party was over. A couple of hours in Photoshop (Yes, I'm slow.) and a quick trip to my local Costco and I had a custom poster for our mantle decoration!

Complete the Contact Form on the right to order a custom version of this poster for your party.
The next piece of decor was a twist on the baby garland that is floating around Pinterest (I first saw it on Sunny Side Up.). I added sailor hats to Ben's pictures in Photoshop instead of birthday hats and had an 8x10 of each picture printed at Costco (Again, I know.  But it  seriously has the most cost-effective photo printing service I've found.).  I connected the photos with twine and placed them around a $4 thrift store frame that I had previously turned into a chalkboard.  The 8x10 size images worked perfectly for my space, but I needed to cover a very large wall.  If you have a smaller wall or are using the images for a traditional garland, I suggest using 5x7 prints of your pictures.

Complete the Contact Form on the right to order a custom version of this garland for your party. 
I know you're probably wondering why I didn't fix the color temperature of the first two baby pictures.  Well, it's because Ben really was that red in his first month!  He slowly morphed into the fair-skinned fella he is today, but he was born with a sunburn. :)

An overview of the decor: 
DIY Event Nautical Event Decor
DIY Nautical Event Decor
I decided to make the signage look like life preservers.  Originally, I was going to make 3 dimensional life preservers using styrofoam rings like this version on Catch My Party, but that didn't fit within the budget.  I settled on poster board that I purchased cheaply at the Dollar Store. With the leftover poster board, I made mini life preservers and pasted on images of Ben throughout his first year.  I hung them with twine on a standing frame from Pottery Barn and placed it next to the buffet like a life preserver rack. 

Inexpensive Life Preserver Decor
Luckily, some boards in our fence needed to be replaced.  While I am not too happy having a mismatched fence until the new boards age, I was very happy to have some rustic wood with which to make the "Welcome to Lake Ben" sign.  I painted the two smaller pieces with chalkboard paint so it can be reused over and over again.  If you are using chalkboards for events, I suggest purchasing some colored chalk.  It's much more festive, especially for a kid's party. I like Crayola Drawing Chalk

Rustic sign made from old pieces of wood and chalkboard paint
As mentioned in a previous post, when the budget is tight I love to choose favors that can also be used as a decoration.  I purchased red and blue striped pinwheels at the Dollar Store. They were scattered throughout our backyard to add some color and fun for the kids.  As the kids left, I told them to pick a pinwheel to take home as a favor.  They were so excited to pluck one from the ground!

Pinwheels acted as both a decoration and a favor
Another idea from Pinterest was to turn a large box into a sailboat for photos and decor.  My sister/craft buddy made the boat and did a great job!

From box to boat!
For table decor, I think it is wise to invest in plain white or cream linens and then just accessorize them to fit the theme for each event.  It is much cheaper to purchase accent pieces of fabric for each party than full tablecloths (Burlap is one of my favorite accent fabrics.  It is extremely cheap and on trend.).  For this party, I purchased inexpensive jersey fabric for only $2.00/yard.  I recommend jersey fabric if you can find it in the color/design that fits your theme because (as long as you are okay with a little imperfection) you can just rip the fabric.  It curls up on the end a little when it is ripped, but you don't need to sew.  For me, rolled up edges are TOTALLY better than having to sew...especially since I don't know how to sew!

Another dual-purpose decoration was the centerpiece.  The Dollar Store sells these cute pails, so I just grouped them together on the table with some snacks.  The "Fish & Chips" sign was another quick Photoshop design of mine. 

Hubby straightening out the fabric.  "Fish & Chips" centerpieces.
Well, I've been sitting at this computer for a while and I still haven't covered the menu or the activities!  You can read about those in Part 2.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

faux chalkboard wreath

When I was planning decorations for a baby shower, I commissioned this beautiful burlap and lace wreath to serve as a backdrop for the guest book table.  I really wanted to incorporate the mommy-to-be's due date somehow onto the wreath.  I love the current chalkboard trend, so I went to several craft stores looking for a ready-made, thin chalkboard that could be easily attached to the wreath.  I couldn't find anything to suit my needs.  Then it occurred to me that I could probably fashion a faux chalkboard out of black poster board and a white paint marker.  I loved the result! Not only did my faux chalkboard look like the real thing, but since the poster board was so light weight it was super easy to attach to the wreath. Easy and inexpensive?  That's my kind of decoration!