Category: Parties

a birthday candy gram

candy gram

I envy those of you who always come up with the perfect gift for every occasion. If that’s something that comes naturally to you, be thankful! If gift-giving is something you struggle with, you can tuck this idea away for the next time you’re trying to figure out what to get for someone who has everything they need.

For my husband’s birthday, I helped my kids put together a candy gram. After looking up some ideas online, I bought a bunch of candy bars that I thought we could incorporate into the birthday message on the poster. Then after the kids got home from school, we typed up the message, printed it out, and glued the words and the candy to the poster. It was quick, easy, and fun! And best of all, it’s more personal than giving Daddy a gift card or another striped tie.

candy gram

If you’re considering making a candy gram, here are a few tips:

1. PRINT THE WORDS ON PAPER, then glue them onto the poster. Hand-written posters look charming and more personal, but I just didn’t trust that we’d be able to fit our whole message on the poster if we hand-wrote it. Printing it first allowed us to arrange it all on the poster before we glued everything down. The font I used is Bubblegum Sans.

2. MOUNT YOUR CANDY GRAM ON FOAM CORE. Standard poster board seemed like it would be too flimsy to accommodate the weight of all the candy, so I used a 20×30 sheet of foam core. It costs more than poster board, but it’s sturdy and easy to transport. Plus, you can prop it up against the wall instead of laying it flat.

3. ATTACH THE CANDY WITH HOT GLUE. Strong tape would probably work too, but hot glue was quick and easy. Several candy bars did jump off the board a few days later, but I figure they were just begging to be eaten…

candy gram

Every time my toddler sees his daddy’s candy gram, he puts his arms in the air and says, “Birthday!” This candy gram was obviously created for a birthday, but it could be adapted for almost any occasion. If you search for “candy gram” on Google or Pinterest, you’ll find tons of great ideas out there, and you’ll quickly see that I borrowed parts of our text from other candy grams.

If you create a candy gram, feel free to share a link to it in the comments. I’d love to see what you make!

another soccer birthday party

soccer party cupcakes

What do you do when your kid requests the same birthday party theme two years in a row? If you’re me, you plan another soccer-themed birthday party! I figured that either Hayden loved his soccer birthday party last year so much that he wanted to do it again… or he wanted to give me another chance to get it right. Ha! I didn’t want to just repeat last year’s party, so I came up with some new ideas for celebrating a birthday with a soccer theme.

Hayden loves cupcakes, and they’re easy to serve at a party, so I designed some new cupcake toppers featuring his new age. I printed them on cardstock and glued them to toothpicks. (In case you’re curious, the cake plate is from Pier 1. Several years ago, I looked all over for the “perfect” cake plate until I finally found this one.)

soccer birthday party

To avoid having to write names on cups, I made custom water bottle labels with the names of each of the kids at the party. I designed a simple label and printed it onto regular white paper. Then I secured it to the bottle with wide, clear packing tape so that it wouldn’t get wet with condensation or destroyed by energetic boys! The font is Letterman-Solid.

soccer party water bottles

Every year I make a new giant number that we use for a birthday photo shoot with friends and family, and this year I painted it to look like a classic referee jersey (even though that’s not what soccer refs wear). I cut it out of foam core with an X-Acto knife, then used blue painters tape to mark the guidelines for painting the black stripes. You can see other numbers here: 6, 8, 9, 10.

DIY birthday photo prop

I loved the water bottle favors we gave out last year, but this year I managed to come up with something entirely different. I literally wandered the aisles of the dollar store, trying to come up with a good idea! I found these generic-looking bags of M&Ms that happened to be black and white, and bought a couple packs of paper clips with soccer balls on them. Then I purchased a bunch of $1 gift certificates for ice cream cones at a local grocery store, slipped them into little white envelopes, and clipped them to the M&Ms.

soccer party favors

Decorating for an outdoor party can be tricky, so I kept two goals in mind as I planned my decor. TIP #1: define your space. I wanted the area for food and gifts to be the focal point, so I needed to decorate in a way that would call attention to that area. I blew up three packs of balloons, strung them up, and hung them from small shepherd’s hooks along the edges of our patio.

outdoor party decorating tip // define your space

Large spaces need large decorations, which leads me to TIP #2: go big. The actual party area seemed small compared to the big backyard and tall trees, so I made a long bunting out of black and white felt and hung it between a tree and our house.

outdoor party decorating tip // go big

Do you have any tips for decorating for outdoor parties? Every space is different, of course, but I’d love to hear your ideas.

a sparkly birthday party

sparkly birthday party invitation

Have you ever hosted a party with a dress code? I have! For Magen’s 10th birthday party earlier this summer, the invitations specified what the attendees should wear: anything sparkly! Because what girl doesn’t love sparkles? I even got in on the sparkly action with some sequin shoes that I bought on extreme clearance a few years ago… just in case I ever needed them.

sparkly sequin shoes

The sparkle theme was inspired by a sheet of holographic foam core that Magen wanted me to use for her double-digit birthday photoshoot. Two years ago, I started a tradition of cutting out giant numbers to use for a birthday photoshoot, and this year’s was the easiest, because I didn’t even have to paint the numbers. (Here are the amateur 8, the greatly-improved 9, and Hayden’s soon-to-be-retired six.) The main photoshoot was with the birthday girl and her friends, but unfortunately I can’t post them here, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

birthday photoshoot

Instead of games, this year we did sparkly crafts with sequins and glitter. I’m not sure if that makes me brave or crazy, but I’m very glad we didn’t have any glitter mishaps!


Each girl designed and stitched her own framed sequin art. I bought a bunch of small black picture frames from Target and cut sheets of white craft foam to size. The girls used colorful sequins and clear seed beads to decorate their foam, attaching them with thread and a beading needle. Perhaps someday I’ll write up a good tutorial, but basically the thread comes up through the sequin and the bead, and then goes out over the edge/side of the bead and back down through the sequin. It’s more complicated than gluing the sequins on, but it holds them in place very securely — and the beads give it some extra dimension. This is the sample I made for the girls. It’s not perfect, but you get the idea.

stitched sequin art

The glass is behind the foam, so the frame can easily be used for a photograph again when we get tired of the sequins… or more likely, when she’s no longer ten years old.

The girls also made their own glitter tattoos inspired by this tutorial. They cut their own stencils out of contact paper and adhered the stencil to their skin. I then brushed on Elmer’s glue with a paintbrush, removed the stencil, and sprinkled the glitter onto the glue.  So cute!

DIY glitter tattoo


I love that Magen always wants angel food cake for her birthday, because it’s so easy to decorate! I made a little bunting out of shiny foil wrapping paper that I bought at the dollar store and added 10 tall, glittery sparkler candles.

angel food cake bunting

Sparkler candles are tricky! Due to the fumes, it’s best to use them outside, but then the wind is a problem!

lighting sparkler candles

The shiny paper that you saw on the invitations and the cake bunting also made fun colorful labels for the water bottles. I removed the original labels and attached my new labels with clear packing tape. Excessive? Maybe. But the girls even took their water bottles home with them at the end of the party, so I’m pretty sure they loved it.

sparkly water bottle labels

And of course, no sparkly party is complete without sparklers! It was daytime, so the sparklers didn’t have the same visual effect as they would have had at night, but the girls had fun lighting the sparklers in the middle so that they burned in both directions!

I considered having a water balloon fight with a bit of glitter inside each water balloon, but decided against it for two reasons — (1) it’s a lot of work and (2) the glitter that would have stuck to the girls’ clothes would have ended up in our house and in their parents’ cars. Maybe someday!

Do you have any favorite ideas for sparkly crafts? We have lots of glitter and sequins left over, so I would love to hear your ideas!

third annual summer kickoff party

summer kickoff party

Hooray for the end of the school year and the beginning of summer!

Our school-aged kids finished first and fourth grades last week, so this week our family hosted our third annual Summer Kickoff Party on the patio. The tradition is to serve our guests generous bowls of vanilla ice cream with lots of toppings, and this year we had ten options — mini M&Ms, crushed oreos, butterscotch chips, peanuts, gummi bears, chocolate syrup, magic shell, caramel sauce, rainbow sprinkles, and whipped cream. We also had some teeny-tiny ice cream cones, which are the perfect size for toddlers. (Plus, tiny things are just cute!)

The pictures from last year’s party look almost identical to the year before, but this year I changed things up a bit. After tossing around lots of ideas in my head, I came to my senses and embraced a very simple yellow and white theme. The classic, summery striped napkins are from IKEA.

The backdrop was inexpensive and easy to make, and hopefully distracted people from the fact that I planted exactly zero flowers this year. I hung crepe paper streamers from a piece of twine, then put a dab of glue on each strip to hold them together at a bit of an angle, giving it added dimension. I loved the way the breeze rustled the streamers.

Do you have any traditions to kick off the warmest season of the year? Is it a backyard party with friends? Going to the beach? Making ice cream? I’d love to hear what you do!

snapshots from a soccer birthday party

There are plenty of blogs out there that feature birthday parties with creative themes, amazing decorations, exquisite styling, and professional photos of the happy event. This isn’t one of them.

When I host a party, I’m usually so busy getting everything set up that I feel lucky to find a moment to take pictures before the guests arrive. So here are just a few very basic snapshots of the soccer-themed birthday party we hosted in our backyard to celebrate our happy six-year-old.

soccer birthday party with large number six

Doing a photoshoot with a giant number has become a tradition at our kids’ birthday parties. It only costs a couple bucks to make (I stock up on foam core at Michaels when it’s 50% off), and then we use the large number in their bedroom as a big, fun decoration until their next birthday rolls around. They love it and so do I.

The kids always ask me to create a treasure hunt, so I made a photo-based treasure hunt for the gang of energetic little boys who are still learning to read. For the hidden treasure (which doubled as the party favor), I bought a reusable water bottle for each kid, filled it with sweet treats, and strung up a tag with each boy’s name on it so they didn’t accidentally eat each other’s Skittles.

soccer birthday party water bottle favors

My favorite little detail for the party was the cupcake topper I created — and I was so proud of myself for planning ahead and making them a whole week before the party. Ha! I found a soccer ball graphic on the internet and designed a simple number six in a circle for the opposite side of the cupcake topper. Then I just cut them out with a circle punch and glued them together with a toothpick in between.

soccer birthday party cupcake toppers

Another summer, another round of family birthday parties complete!

a purple birthday party

Stars, sparkles, and purple all came together for a fun birthday party for our sweet nine-year-old. Magen’s favorite cake is angel food, which means I didn’t have to attempt any fancy cake decorating (hooray!), but it did add the challenge of coming up with an interesting cake topper. Last year I just used tall spiral candles, but this year I made some sparkly stars with her name (which should have been higher up).

That’s not a custom metal topper — I just cut her name out of card stock with my X-Acto knife and painted it silver. (The font is Japan, which is a nice thick cursive font.)

Magen wanted to do some of the same activities this year that I had planned for her party last year, including a photoshoot with a giant number and a water balloon fight.

She also requested another treasure hunt, so this year I came up with various activities that would each reveal a clue about where to look for the next clue. It was somewhat complicated to get it all planned out, but also very fun. The girls played charades, Wheel of Fortune, balloon darts, and other games. I didn’t have a Wheel of Fortune game, and couldn’t seem to track one down among any of my friends, so I made my own (of course). I just taped little pieces of paper over the letters written on a chalkboard, and the girls took turns spinning a little spinner to win another Starburst before they guessed a letter.

The girls also enjoyed hitting water balloon piñatas, an idea from Scrap Happy Heather that I discovered via Pinterest. I hung the balloons from a rope tied between two trees, and the girls took turns whacking the balloons with a bat. With a camera in my hand, I made sure I stayed out of the splash zone!

At the end of the treasure hunt, the girls found drawstring goody bags full of fun little trinkets that almost made me wish I were a nine-year-old again.

stitched photo note cards

Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in the value of a handwritten thank you note, whether it’s for a gift or a kind deed. Friends who celebrate your 9th birthday in the backyard and grandparents who send gifts from a distance all deserve to be thanked for their generosity.

During Magen’s birthday party, we snapped a photo of her with each of her friends just before she opened their gift. Then I printed out the photos, trimmed them, and stitched each one to a piece of cardstock printed with a simple “thank you.” Inside Magen wrote a sweet little note of appreciation.

Family members who live at a distance received cards with our family photo, but the cards with colorful pictures from her party are my favorites. By the way, I made that great big number 9 Magen is holding in the same way I made the giant number 8 last year. It’s just foam core and acrylic paint. So fun!

summer kickoff party 2012

The first day of summer is just around the corner, so we were delighted to have a bunch of friends join us on the patio last evening for our now-annual summer kickoff party.

Let’s take a closer look at those toppings on the ice cream sundae bar, shall we?

We served just one kind of ice cream (vanilla) with ten topping options: sprinkles, mini marshmallows, gummi bears, peanuts, mini M&Ms, crushed Oreos, peanut butter chips, chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, and whipped cream. I’m not sad that we have leftovers.

The kids outnumbered the adults 15 to 11, and they entertained themselves with five beach balls, one stomp rocket, and loads of glow bracelets. Michaels sells glow bracelets in tubes of 15 for $1, so I love to hand them out generously at parties like this.

The first official day of summer isn’t until tomorrow, but it feels like it’s already here. Welcome to summer!

mini bunting birthday party invitation

Yesterday we mailed out a stack of invitations to a birthday party for a girl who will soon be nine years old. (Didn’t she just turn eight?)

party invitations

Washi tape and an old-school Dymo label are my envelope embellishments of choice these days, but this was the first time the label has instructed the recipient to PARTY! Inside the envelope, each girl will find a mini party — or at least a sneak preview of the birthday party they’re being invited to.

mini bunting party invitation

The birthday party invitation is a simple white card with a mini paper flag bunting on the front and party details printed inside. I punched two tiny holes near each of the upper corners and tied on a piece of white crochet cotton. Then I hung the folded pennant flags over the string and glued them together, trying to avoid gluing them to the string.

mini bunting party invitation

The tiny flags were cut from sheets of 12×12″ textured cardstock that I bought for 47 cents each. So for less than $2.50, I’ve made six birthday party invitations and about 40 feet of flag bunting to hang at the party (which you’ve actually already seen in progress and in our happy announcement).

I love how the bunting looks when it’s literally tied to the card, but if you have either less time or less patience, stitching the flags to the card would also work just fine.

mini paint can party favors

Four score and seven days ago, Magen had a birthday and invited several friends to celebrate with a sleepover. One of the little party favors is still sitting on Magen’s nightstand, which either indicates that it was amazing… or that she can’t get it open to access the goodies inside.

mini paint can party favor

When I was shopping for party supplies back in June, these little paint cans at Michael’s caught my eye, and I knew immediately that I wanted to use them as favors.

mini paint cans from Michaels

The brightly-colored paint cans are so fun and festive, but I opted for the clear paint can instead.

mini paint can from Michaels

The sides of the paint can are flexible plastic, so I suppose the all-metal cans would be more durable, but the clear plastic of this style really allows you to show off the contents.

I stuffed the little paint cans with fun but inexpensive treats — flavored chapstick, a flip-flop keychain, bubbles, paper soap from Pier 1, and a few Starburst and Laffy Taffy.

mini paint can party favor

mini paint can party favor

The lids were easy to put on, but they were somewhat challenging to remove when the girls discovered the favors at the end of the treasure hunt. (They were easily popped open with a table knife.)

mini paint can party favor

I personalized the mini paint can favors by adding a little paper circle with each girl’s name on the top. I forget what kind of glue I tried to use, but it didn’t adhere well (as in, not at all), so I ended up just using a little loop of tape to attach the circles to the lids.

mini paint can party favor

There are endless possibilities for these mini paint cans, so I’m eager to find another excuse to use one!

a brightly colored felt pennant bunting

Now that Magen is 8 years + 2 weeks old, I figured it was finally time to get out the ladder today and take down the felt pennant bunting I strung up to celebrate her big day.

To make the bunting, I went to JoAnn Fabric and Crafts and selected four colors of felt in coordinating colors. I bought felt off the bolt, but if you’re making a much smaller bunting, you could just purchase a few small sheets of felt that are available in a wider variety of colors.

I purchased eight inches of felt in four colors — fuchsia, yellow, peacock, and orchid, according to my receipt. The felt was 72 inches wide, and each piece cost me just $1.11. I also bought a couple rolls of ribbon and used a coupon for the purchase, so the total cost of the bunting was $5.06.

Back at home, I laid out the strips of felt and immediately wished I had a rotary cutter. Instead, I made a triangular template out of cardboard (the top was 5″ wide) and used it as my guide for marking the diagonal cutting lines on the felt. I used my good sewing scissors to cut out the triangles, and it really wasn’t too bad.

My final step was to stitch the triangles together by laying a piece of ribbon across the top of the felt triangles and running a straight stitch down the length of the ribbon.

Ta-da! Fifty feet of bunting!

(Too bad I didn’t realize that my photo was a little blurry until after I took down the bunting…)

birthday photo shoot with a big number 8

What 8-year-old girl wouldn’t love a birthday photo shoot?

This one did.

For Magen’s big day, I created a large number eight that she could pose with for lots of fun pictures.

I made the big number eight out of a 20×30″ sheet of 3/16″ foam core. I made a template out of newspaper, traced around it onto the foam core, then cut it out with my X-Acto knife. The final dimensions are about 19×28″.

I then painted the foam core with acrylic paint — in this case, Apple Barrel’s Plum Kiss. I also decided to spraypaint the opposite side with metallic silver paint, but that caused the foam core to warp a little, so I would recommend not doing that. And then in a step that might be considered overkill, I colored in the edges with a black Sharpie and the project was complete.

The large foam core number was surprisingly durable, and survived a slumber party, two photo shoots, and several flights into the air. It was a simple project with a big, fun impact.

eight spiral candles on an angel food cake

When Magen requested an angel food cake for her birthday this year, I was delighted. Angel food cake is light and delicious, and best of all, requires no frosting or decorating talent! (I’ll admit that I was slightly disappointed that I wouldn’t have an opportunity to improve my pathetic cake decorating skills, but mostly I was relieved.)

I cook and bake from scratch as much as possible, but for some reason I’ve never made an angel food cake from scratch. It’s so different from other cakes, so I guess the process just seems a bit daunting. During last week’s grocery shopping trip, I mustered up my good intentions and bought an extra dozen eggs, but I also bought a Betty Crocker mix just in case I ran out of time… which I did.

Since an angel food cake doesn’t need any icing, the candles were the only decoration, so I knew they needed to be special. We had plenty of the classic striped candles on hand, but I left them in their boxes and hit up a few of my favorite stores in search of some tall spiral candles.

Party City was sold out of spiral candles, so I don’t know what I was missing out on. I liked the shape of the spiral candles that I found at Target, but I wasn’t too excited about the colors. (I am, however, generally in favor of the concept behind Target’s new line of “Spritz” party accessories.) I finally found some candles that I liked at Michaels ($3 for a box of 12). I poked eight of them into the cake and the cake was ready for the party!

I love how Magen’s birthday cake turned out — simple, sweet, and classy.

Have you ever made an angel food cake from scratch? How did it turn out?

celebrating the first day of summer

What better way to celebrate the first day of summer than with ice cream and water balloons!

Last evening we invited a bunch of friends to come over for a party to celebrate the official arrival of SUMMER!

I snapped a few pictures as we were setting up, so don’t be surprised if toppings and props seem to appear and disappear in these pictures. Goodbye beach ball, hello fruit and ice cream!

We had no shortage of toppings for our ice cream: sprinkles, oreos, gummi bears, M&Ms, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, whipped topping, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries! The brand new beach buckets held puppy chow and pretzels.

The kids enjoyed Laffy Taffy, all kinds of outdoor toys, and glowsticks at dusk. They also had fun with 200 water balloons!

Welcome, summer.