Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thomas the Tank Engine 5th Birthday Party

Welcome to the first installment of my birthday series.  I hope that through these posts I will help those of you who find party planning/executing difficult.  I have always loved throwing parties, but through the years and my experiences, I have found what works for me and what doesn't.

 What a fun day! My little boy's first "friend" birthday party! I will admit, when he announced that he wanted a "Thomas the Tank Engine" birthday party I was a little less than thrilled. I know that sounds awful, but it is only because I have already done a Thomas birthday party when my oldest son was 3 and I had done a generic "train" birthday party when Rhys turned 2. I always like doing something new and fresh, but in the end it turned out super fun and we already had a TON of Thomas stuff to use as decoration.  So, with that being said, Tip #1 Use stuff you already have for decorations! More often than not, your kids will pick a theme for their party based on their current faves. This could also be true for your husband or significant other if you are trying to plan a surprise party. For this party, I simply "shopped" my son's room for anything "Thomas".  A few days ahead of time, gather all of your "themed" items and put them in a box or bin and set them aside. You can also just use other things you have in your home if they fit the colors or style. When something catches your eye, grab it and put it in the box.  Once you see how much or little you have, you can decide what needs to be store bought to fill in the gaps.

I usually like to have a main display table either with food or the favors and cake. My husband took all of the kids with him to get the balloons filled up and pick up the cupcakes, so I took some time to snap a few pictures without any interruptions. There are a few things missing from the table, but you get the general idea.

My son got a remote control James train set made by Lionel for Christmas and I knew for sure it would make an appearance at the party.  I thought it would be perfect going around the favors and cupcakes
Here are the favors. This is one of my favorite ways to package up favors for the kids. I really, really, really hate putting in a lot of time and effort into something, only to have kids rip it apart. I have learned over the years that kids could care less how much time or effort you put into something, they just want what is inside and in this instance, they probably can't even read what the tag says. Does that sound cynical? I hope not, it is just reality. HOWEVER, I still want to make an effort.  These tags were all computer generated except for the die cut stamped train. That is from the "Little Hot Rod" set from PTI.  It was fast and easy so I don't care if it gets ripped up. It was just enough effort to add a little something, but not too much for me to care.
I was once watching one of Tori Spelling's reality series and she was carefully making the CUTEST snacks to take to preschool for her son. It was a mini terra cotta pot filled with hummus and tiny carrots with their leaves sticking in the pot. Absolutely adorable. Her husband made a comment that she wasn't doing it for the kids, she was doing it for all of the other moms. She denied it, but the more I have thought about that statement, the more it has rung true with me. For instance, the tag here says, "Chugga Chugga Thank You" The kids can't read, so it is probably more for the adults who will see it. With that being said, I find that I DO make more of an effort in certain areas when I know there will be moms there who will enjoy it or think it is cute. I don't know if that is bad or not. I am not trying to be in competition with anyone or anything like that. My brain is just always thinking of fun, creative ideas and it will literally burst if I don't implement some of them. Does that make sense?
Anyway, back to the favors. I was saying before all of that, that I really like packaging favors up like this for kids. I like buying the sturdy plastic cups they sell at party supply stores. We always need plastic cups for the kiddos, it fits the theme and it holds some fun stuff.  Each cup has a wooden train whistle, candy, etc.  I learned from my son's generic train party to not give them the whistles DURING the party. I think you can imagine the noise.
I came across an idea for these cute candy trains and I knew I wanted to make them for the party. They were so easy and the kids loved them.  I found the hershey kisses and Krackle minis in the bulk section...score! I didn't have to buy a whole bag and the starlight mints came from the dollar store. The life savers were at the checkout. Yay! I simply hot glued everything together. They seemed a little naked, so I added the computer generated "Rowan's Railway" label to the back.

The kids were so excited to get to take home their candy train.  I've seen ideas for other candy creations like airplanes, sleds, cars, etc. The sky is the limit and with the selection and variety of candy, you could probably make anything to fit the theme of your party.

I also had Thomas's greatest stories playing on the T.V. They are on Netflix so it just played over and over again. You can see Sir Topham Hat on the T.V. in the background. It added some color, music and enhanced the theme and I didn't find it distracting at all. I have found that if I am hosting a party at my home, I like to decorate the day or night before. In my case, the night before is more beneficial once the little ones are in bed. If you can do anything a head of time, it take a lot of stress away. Once it is all set up, all I have to do is make sure it doesn't get "taken apart" by the little ones. LOL!  Kids can tell if you are stressed and having them walk into a chaotic environment isn't any fun! I can't believe the things I used to try and do the the day of the party! Plan ahead, prepare ahead, do anything you can before!
I knew we had to bring the train table and tracks up for the party. I didn't quite now how we would work it into the schedule, but it had to be there. It worked out perfectly to have it all set up as each guest arrived I showed them into the family room to play. Let me tell you, they LOVED it. I probably didn't even need to have any other activities planned because they were consumed with it.

My cute sister bought a surprise addition to the set and wrapped it up so that it could remain a surprise. It was a fog horn that blew it's whistle each time a train went cute! We also finally put some fresh batteries in the battery operated Thomas engine and that was a huge hit to watch him meander around the track carrying his freight cars.
I love, love, love decorating for each season, but I didn't want to take it all down for the party, so I simply incorporated a few engines into the icy tablescape to tie everything together. Tip #2 Try and pick a room, or venue to enhance the party theme. I generally like hosting parties outside because it is a blank slate, but of course in January it wasn't going to happen. The weather has been mild, but not suitable for an outdoor party.  When I found out how mild the weather would be, I tried last minute to get a train to come take the kids around our culdesac, but it had been put away for the winter. Oh well......
Yay...the cupcakes have arrived. I debated whether to make a cake or order one, or just what. I had already purchased a full size Thomas cake for his actual Birthday and didn't want to spend more  money.
I have learned over the years what makes me stressed and what doesn't. If the party is at a different venue, then I don't mind making a whole bunch of food, the cake, etc. but if it is at my home, I want the kitchen clean. I don't want dishes in the sink, etc. to distract from the party. So, Walmart to the rescue. They made the themed cupcakes which is just enough for the kids and I won't have a ton of leftovers to tempt me! Ha ha!
So...if your tradition is to make your kids cake, go for it. You probably know how long it takes you, what kind of mess it makes,etc. I have done both and it really doesn't matter. Do what makes you happy and eliminates stress the day of the party. I was serving lunch so I held the party at noon which didn't give me alot of prep time in the morning.

I decided to do a little papercrafting for the party. I made some punch art Thomas cards for the food. I made up fun little names for each of the food items. You can see here I used "Cranky the Crane's Corn Dogs".  Do you think the kids noticed? I doubt it, but it was fun!
Often time people use their island for serving food, but I generally have the food around the other counters to create a buffet line instead. Since I was using the dining table for display, I needed to have the kids eat around the island. I also set up a card table for extra seating. We added a few pieces of track to go under the "water tower" drink dispenser for added fun!  The dispenser had a concoction of blue Hawaiian punch and sprite, but it wasn't prepared yet, so it is empty in this picture. The blue color added just the right touch.  Another way to add some color and decoration to the party is to actually "set" out the plates, cups, napkins. Voila! Instant decoration!
Another one of my punch art Thomas cards.  I used an assortment of circle punches and a few others and then hand drew the mouth and eyebrows. Each Thomas is wearing a slightly different expression.
Again, I hadn't put all of the food out, but I had to recreate this fun way to display food that I saw. There are so many resources for fun ideas, I can't help but incorporate some of them.  It is hard being a creative person in this pinteresting world we live in. I say that because every thing I make I have people ask or assume that I got it off of Pinterest. For those of you who know me, that is clearly not the case and I try to not let it bug me. Yet, with that being said, there are so many cute ideas I do want to use some.  I'm not ashamed of being inspired by someone else's creative ideas. Clear as mud?

For one of the games, we were going to use these tracks laid out on the floor using blue painters tape. It really didn't take too long and it really added to the them of the party. It came up easily afterward and the kids loved it. Because of the tile lines, it was super easy for placement.

I had the tracks meander from my front door into the kitchen, around the island and around the dining table.  When it was time to play the game, I taped some colorful dots to the floor and then played musical train. Each kid had to land on a dot or they were out once the music stopped. We played some fun Thomas music as they chugged around the tracks.
My kid's birthday parties generally involve a pinata. It is easy, fun, exciting and at the end, you get candy! I was worried about a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds being blindfolded and whacking aimlessly, but this particular pinata came with a surprise. Maybe ones I have bought in the past had the same feature, but I'm not sure. There were a bunch of ribbons hanging down and one was the "magic" string and released a trap door that let out all of the candy. Each kid got a turn and it opened when the last kid pulled the string. It couldn't have worked out better. I warned the kids ahead of time that there would be a chance that the trap door would open the first time, but we got lucky...super lucky! I purchased some separate "loot bags" that I labeled with their names before and handed them out before we got started.  I haven't labeled them in the past and then there are random bags of candy all over and no one remembers whos are whos.
There are a TON of online resources for kids activities. I printed out these coloring pages from Sprout online and PBS kids has a ton, too. If they show it on those two channels, chances are, there will be a ton of fun crafts, games, printables for that particular show/character. Of course I had to buy the matching Thomas crayons.  They didn't even get a chance to color their pages, so I just sent them home with them. Tip #3 Plan the length of the party in accordance with how many activities you want/need to have. I have learned over the years that parties can just be too long. I would rather have the party be exciting rather than have kids sitting around. I planned this party for 1 1/2 hours. Eating came first, games, presents, cupcakes. So...they arrived and played on the train set, ate lunch, played "Pin the Funnel on Thomas", musical tracks, pinata, played more trains, and then presents and cake. It was perfect!

Here is the birthday boy opening all of his fun presents. I gave each child an engineer hat and they all looked so adorable. I got some super cute pictures of all of the guests, but didn't feel it was appropriate to post them here. I can't believe this little guy is 5!

Here he is blowing out his pesky #5 candle that wouldn't stay lit. We did manage to get it blown out and a wish made. Sorry it is blurry! I hope you enjoyed this post. I love planning parties, throwing parties and going to parties. I'm always sad they end so soon.  I always put a lot of work into them and they seem to be over before you know it.  I do want to add, that this was probably the least stressed I have been for a party in a LONG time. Maybe it was because only a few moms were coming and I knew the kids wouldn't care so long as they had fun, maybe it was because I am finally learning a thing or two, who knows, but hopefully I can pass on some of the things that I have learned along the way to make things not as stressful. Parties are supposed to be fun, right? Thanks for "chugging" by!

P.S. If you have any questions, simply leave a comment and I will try and address them in future party posts. I don't think I am going to do them all back to back because I want to share my Valentine's projects.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Special Friend Blend

 Some brilliant person somewhere coined a phrase...I think it goes something like this; Cancer Sucks! Yes...I'm pretty sure that's it! It is true, too. My dad died from cancer; lots of people every day suffer from this awful disease.  One of my new, yet dear friends has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. My heart aches for her, for her darling kids and her supportive husband.  She is so courageous and bright spirited through it all. I had the opportunity to bring her family dinner this past week and made this to give to her.  I ran out of time to get everything ready, so it still needs to be delivered, but now I have an excuse to go see her again.

This is one of my all-time favorite sets. I just love it. I used to use it ALL the time, but it hasn't seen ink for a while. I also used the companion set as well; Tea for Two and also, Tea for Two additions.  They both have dies that coordinate, but for some reason I just really love cutting out the tea pot. I did, however, use the die for the tea cup which you can see on the tag. The reason why I love cutting out the tea pot is because it follows the inked lines exactly and the die cut leaves some extra space. It is good when you are in a time crunch, but when I want to make it look a little better, I opt for me, the scissors and exacto knife.

 This project uses a lot of techniques that I really love and you can see throughout a lot of my work. I used some vintage glass glitter around the accordion medallion, stitching and buttons.  The funny part about this project is that it does not include any tea. I don't know if she is a tea drinker, so I gave her a few packets of hot cocoa and Dove hearts. What's not to love about that, right?

The tag is just a fun little addition. After it was all done, I imagined how cute the spoons would have looked embossed in silver or gold. Looks like I have given myself another "tea" themed project so I can try it out.  Thanks for fluttering by!

P.S. The Thomas the Tank Engine birthday party was a smashing success and I have decided to do a whole birthday series. I did get a comment (thank you) from a reader saying that they would like that so....I will do it! I haven't decided if I should start with some of the older parties and work my way forward, or what, so stay tuned.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Thank you for the thoughtful gift

In the meadow we can build a snowman...when I was growing up I thought the song said...and pretend that he is "parse and brown". I always wondered what it meant to be "parse" and why would any self respecting snowman want to be brown?  Clearly I have grown a lot since then and that's why this cute little snowman is white and sparkly...maybe a little parse, but definitely white! LOL!

I always like to make a special effort to create some handmade thank you cards to send out after the holidays in gratitude for the gifts that we all receive.  This year I got a head start and had them made before Christmas even came. I was seriously having so much fun being crafty!  The sad part is I am typing this they are sitting in a stack on the desk all addressed and NOT SENT! What? I know, I know...shocking and disappointing. Hopefully they will get to the post office tomorrow. I just really want them to be hand cancelled so all of my hard work doesn't get shredded in the postal sorter.

I wanted the cards to reflect the season but not, definitely not, be Christmas-y. I think I achieved this goal with the mix of papers and colors.  The snowman was stamped with Palette ink and then colored with Copic and Prismacolor markers. I used an assortment of blues and greys to try and create the perfect icy shadow on Mr. Brown. The effect was perfect with the addition of some stickles.

The snowman image is from a PTI set called Tremendous Treats: Christmas or something like that and the sentiment is from the set called Tree Trimming Trio. The snowflake embellishments were punched from vellum for a soft, realistic feel. The sequins added just the right shine.

I kept everything as flat as possible for  them to be easily mailed, yet once I had added the embellishment on the sentiment it made the card a little more bulky than I felt comfortable with, hence the need for hand cancelling. The post office just loves me. I do have to add, however, that my new post office loves me more than the old one I used to go to. Thanks for fluttering by!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

So sorry for your loss

 Life has a way of throwing us curve balls...lots and lots of them.  Death is constant and inevitable, yet when it happens so unexpectedly and tragically it is especially difficult. I have endured many losses in my life and while each one has been painful, the days go by and eventually the hurt fades and life has a way of creating a new normal.  You would think that with experience comes some sort of expertise, but for some reason when others lose a loved one, I shrink into an awkwardness of not knowing what to do or say. Sometimes saying I'm sorry just doesn't seem like enough.

 I can give a little bit more by creating a piece of myself to give away with the recipient in mind.  Today I chose purple...I think it's her favorite. Sympathy cards can be must strike a perfect balance of appropriateness and cheer.  I tend to gravitate towards floral and classic, but today I chose something a little more organic and earthy. I felt I captured the feel I was going for without compromising the sympathetic elements.

 This particular stamp set is called Blooming Button Bits from PTI and while it rarely gets used, it is one that I love.  I chose a few buttons with different textures and sheen for interest but kept the colors exactly the same to eliminate a distraction.  The leaves were stamped using Simply Chartreuse ink and then I added some stickles to a few of the leaves for just the right balance of shine. Again, it goes back to the appropriateness level.

Since I wasn't using pattern paper, I felt I needed to create enough texture and pattern to satisfy my tastes.  I guess I'm a meddler...I just can't leave well enough alone! I know simple is chic and in vogue, but I have to stay true to myself. If I "copy" someone else, it becomes math and math isn't my best subject.

I used an embossing folder for the first layer. I then added a layer of burlap to just peek out from the focal image to keep it earthy and organic. I don't normally mix sentiments like I did here, but for some reason it works here. I had originally had the sentiment on purple just repeat itself along the strip, but it was needing something else. This frame was the perfect addition. I did want to add ribbon, but I left it alone. The final touch was a few of these tiny  stones, I bought them quite a few years ago and I think they are from the robin's nest or something like that. I really liked them on this card...maybe some fresh dew, rain or tears.  I really hope this card brings some comfort for the recipient. Thanks for fluttering by!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

From my heart, to your home

Snail Mail...a disappearing form of communication. I refuse to participate in its demise.  As much as I love the instant gratification of being able to communicate with someone via text, email, private message, etc. there is something so much more endearing about a personal note or letter and especially, a handmade card. Most of the time, the mail box is devoid of any form of joy but rather abundant with the dismal reminder that there are bills to be paid and obligations to be met. Today I chose to send a little handmade cheer!  It is always nice to be thought of, especially when it is unexpected.

I made three of the exact same card, because who said bad things always have to come in threes? Can't good things, too? I think so!  I used one of my all-time favorite stamp sets; Love Lives Here by PTI. I chose my color scheme based on these yummy papers. I just love them. I just recently made a "Baby's First Year" mini flip album for a friend for a baby shower using the same paper. I wasn't thrilled with the photos I took (unfortunate lighting and too little time) but you can check it out at the bottom of this post if you are interested in seeing it.
I always love adding a little stitching to my handmade cards. I especially love adding it with a felt element as well, as I did with the bottom border on these cards. I hope these cards bring a little cheer to the recipients. Thanks for fluttering by!

P.S. I haven't done a ton of papercrafting for my son's Thomas the Tank Engine party he is having Saturday, but I will still share the details if you are interested. I actually have put together quite a few birthday parties for my kids in the last year, so maybe I will do an entire "birthday" series,

Monday, January 19, 2015

Happy Brrrrr-thday!

 Hello! It's me just popping in to let you know I'm not dead. I am, in fact, quite alive and have been having a lot of fun crafting, creating, cooking, and keeping busy being a mom to my 5 amazing kids! It is crazy, it is hectic, but it is ALWAYS an adventure!

 I thought this card was fitting for the recent weather we are having! I know it seems insane, but I give thanks almost daily for the snow and winter!I love it! I have been taking advantage of cozy fires, warm sweaters and frequent cups of hot cocoa to stave off any inkling of the winter blues trying to creep in. In fact, I realize that spring is closer than it seems every time I pass the pots of bulbs I have in the garage that are slowly forcing their green leaves through the dirt.

 For today's card I used a fun little set from PTI that I purchased last year, but USED it a ton this year with my Christmas gifts. I also used a snowflake set from PTI as well. I completely fell in love with this sled image and coordinating dies.

 The circle image was embossed using the wood grain background from PTI as well. I really liked giving it a little texture that mimicked the feel of the sled.

 I always love the feel a doily can add, especially in conjunction with the snowflakes; delicate and lacy! I also stamped a piece of vellum to lay over the printed music pattern paper for some extra whimsy and detail.

The jingle bell is probably my favorite part; sparkly and cheery! I bought an assortment from Hobby Lobby and had a lot of fun adding them to lots of holiday projects! I'm really kind of sad that the holidays are over and jingle bells are no longer necessary. Oh well, it will be here before we know it!

At least there is Valentine's Day, which I love, right around the corner and I am so excited to get some fun projects put together. My little Rowan will be 5 tomorrow and I have been planning his "Thomas the Tank Engine" party. Valentine's projects can wait...little boys who are growing up too fast get TOP priority! Thanks for fluttering by!