Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Horsie Party. All About the Details...

As I said in my previous post, my little girl was just so excited about her horsie party, I just knew I couldn't let her down! As with all my parties, the planning process starts very early. With her birthday party this year, the theme was probably changed more than I have for any other party. I was definitely set on a candy theme then changed it to a 'Sugar Plum Fairy' theme but nothing just seemed right. Finally I realized what it was. I wasn't taking Avalee into consideration; I was just doing the party I wanted. I hadn't really run into this as much with Zavion's parties, and I don't know why I was having such a hard tome with hers. I decided I needed to ask her what she really wanted. Now, I know you are laughing right now. Ask a two year old what they want for a birthday party?? You must be crazy! But, you will find that kids, even that young, have a strong opinion of what they want. And, sure enough, I no sooner asked her than she blurted out, “I want a horsie party!”

See, my little lady has loved horses every since I cam remember. We have two horses that live at the end of the street, and she practically adopted them as her own.

And, then there was getting to ride a horsie at her cousin's birthday party that I think really sealed the deal for her. ;)

So, a horsie party it was. One of the first things I do with any party, is research. I love immersing myself in everything related to my theme and just letting ideas, big and tiny, come to me. When I looked up horse/pony parties I found most had to do with farm, cowgirl or farm animals. They all had a very country feel to them, which is just not us at all. I knew I wanted something a  little more modern, a little more glam.

I started out with the invitations. I saw this adorable idea on Pinterest months ago and when the theme was picked, knew it would fit perfectly!
I bought a piece of wood from Michaels (the same one used here for Zavion's Kindergarten photos) and painted it with chalkboard paint. Avalee and I raided her wardrobe and came up with the cutest outfit which she added lots of jewelry too to make it even cuter! Then I brought in the big guns...my mom's old rocking horse! This horse was made for my mom by her grandfather (my great-grandfather, Avalee's great-great...you get the point) and has been passed down the line of kids. I have very fond memories of just rocking away on that horse when I was a kid. Avalee already loves it, so was very willing to hop on and give me a little photo shoot. She did amazing (seriously, any agencies want to sign my kid??) and the photos turned out awesome. I picked my favorite (hard to do!) and printed them off then added the party info to the back.

I also used one for an electronic invite for all our friends on Facebook (big money-saver there; fewer invites to print, fewer envelopes, stamps).

For the planning stage, I set up my usual list:

One of the first things I do when thinking of decorations, is to assign a color scheme. Even though I always have a theme, I find it really helps solidify things if you have colors picked out. I think it also helps get everything organized; once I pick my colors, I can go to the craft store and buy the appropriate shades/patterns of paper (or in the case of this party, I was able to just raid my growing collection of scrapbook papers, leaving me to only have to buy a few sheets of paper!). For this party, I decided on a purple (Avalee's favorite color) and brown/black color scheme. I wanted it to look girly, but also modern and simple.
And,obviously, the decorations would consist largely of horses. I decided I really wanted a garland of just horses to go in front of the mantle. Using my Cricut, I cut out horse after horse and spent hours assembling. As I was working on the garland, inspiration struck and I thought it might look really cute to add tutus on some of the horses. Using my cache of tulle, I just cut tiny pieces and stuck them on the back ends of the horses, using glue dots (a must-have for any crafter!). I tried to tuck some under others, so they fluffed up a bit and when I was done I cut some more strips in them. I loved the way they turned out but didn't love the time-consuming aspect so decided to just alternate them on the horses, adding them only to the black horses.

They ended up turning out very adorable and got a huge nod of approval from my soon-to-be-three year old (who actually 'helped' with a couple)!

For the birthday banner, I knew I was going to use some fabulous paper I had found at Michaels. It was purple wood grain and couldn't have been a more perfect fit for the theme. I was trying to figure out what I would do with it, when I had another moment of inspiration. I had been working on a Thanksgiving banner, using a free printable from this site. I had fallen in love with the shape of the banner, but unfortunately my printer ran out of ink about halfway through printing. I never got my cartridge replaced, so was left with the pieces of the banner I had already cut out, on brown textured cardstock. Just for fun, I put the purple paper on top of the other piece and instant magic! The banner had this inside border that I knew I could use to layer the purple on top of. I just printed out more of what I needed, cut them out and using a piece of vellum, I traced the inside border then cut that out and used it to cut all my purple paper. I know, it sounds like a lot of work but since I already had about a quarter of the banner cut out, it wasn't too bad. For the letter, I just used some purple sparkly paper I already had and let my Cricut do all the work there for me. I added some glue dots to everything, assembled, strung it up on jute (another must have crafting item!) and done. I also cut out a couple of big horses, the same as the garland, in the same purple and had them on each side of the banner.

I loved how it turned out and I think it is my favorite birthday banner of all time, so far. :)

Another element I knew I really wanted to incorporate into the party décor was hay. It was one of the few rustic elements I used, but even glam horses need hay, right? ;) I saw some large bales of straw at Michaels before Halloween and decided to patiently wait for them to go on clearance. In the meantime, I found some of the smaller bales of straw in the floral department I just knew I had to have! I got the next size down the the big guy to use on the mantle and the next size down from those to use on the food table (more on that later). I put the medium straw bale in the middle of the mantle and decided to add some pictures around it. I raided Avalee's room (remember, sometimes this is the best way to find decorations...look before buying!) and found the prefect purple frame. A trip to Walmart garnered me two more frames; the perfect complimentary brown and under $2 each. Then, a quick search and I found a few of my favorite Avalee photos and sent them off to Costco (another quick and easy decoration; photos, photos, photos! They're cheap, easy and very personal!). I played around with the arrangement a bit, and decided to add my most fave pic on top of the straw bale. I used the purple frame for this and the brown frames next to the bale, to offset a bit. I thought it would be cute to use the chalkboard I used for the invitations, and it fit perfectly against the straw bale. Next to those I added a couple horses that my little sister handed down to Avalee (again...totally free!).

I knew I wanted something else, so searched my house and found my stash of couple mason jars (the kids have been chowing their way through our homemade pickles!). I decided those would be cute on each end of the mantle with some flowers. Trader Joes had some beautiful bouquets with purple flowers for only $3.99, so I was set on that. I then added some submersible lights and some water beads (I picked out all the purple ones from a bunch Zavion got for his birthday) and a big 'A' to one and '3' to another (cut out with my Cricut and backed with a cereal box for support, haha).

Underneath the horse garland, across the front of the mantle, I added a banner using pictures from Avalee's invitation photo shoot. This was one of those last-minute additions (and I was literally throwing it together at about 1AM the day of the party) but it came together pretty quickly and easily.

My hubby and I brainstormed (and by that, I mean he talked me down from my big, no-way-it's-gonna-get-done idea, hehe) for something to go above the mantle and decided on this.

I was going to put the entire horse verse, but my hubby convinced me this was not very sensible. He sometimes has a point (he won't read this, so don't anybody go telling him I almost said he was right). This ended up being a very quick and easy decoration, and again, since I used what I had, free. I covered the frame in the kids' craft paper then cut out the letters on the Cricut and glued them on. As Zavion would say, “Easy peasey lemon squeezy.” ;)

In my entry ways, I added some simple balloons in the party colors (purple and brown polka dotted). I already have hooks up there (just the 3M type, but they were added for a party years ago and when we repainted, I just painted over them, so you can't even really see them anymore) so it was quick and easy.

For my door sign (you may remember this from other posts, but I always put up a 'welcome' sign on the door. I think it's something nice for the guests and sets an expectation for the party), I used the Cricut to cut out a barn then added the wording to the top. I had plans to have a little picture of Avalee peeking out from the barn window but didn't get around to it.
I just noticed I have no pictures of the door sign...oops! I really need to hire a photographer for my parties!

For my food table, I again incorporated some things I already had. I used a toy barn and horse stables that used to be Zavion's and a few more horses. The small bales of straw were used to hold mini popcorn balls on a stick (thanks, Mom for making those!). I wrapped a strip of tulle around each one to give it more of that glam feel. On each end of the table I hung some latex balloons and one adorable mylar balloon. I love the look and ease of balloons! In this case, I found some adorable latex balloons that had horses printed on them. They were even the perfect color (not really any pictures of those either. Darn...where was my photographer??).

For the food, I made mini macaroni and cheese bites (found these on Pinterest and they were a huge hit!), a veggie tray and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (I used my Pampered Chef sandwich sealer to cut them). We also had the mini popcorn balls.

And instead of cupcakes I made mini pies (big, big thanks to my friend Brittanie at Cupcakes Kisses 'n' Crumbs for loaning me her pie-maker!)!

I also added this sign next to the pies. I made it in about 10 seconds on a site that lets you generate your own 'Keep Calm...' signs. Made it, saved it and sent it onto Costco with the other party pics. I loved how it looked and it added a nice bit of whimsy.

The birthday cake was a one-of-a-kind creation by your truly, hehe. Now, I will say I can bake pretty well and can make pretty things, but when it comes to cake decorating it's always a big fail! This time however, I was pretty proud of myself. I used more pieces of that farm set, including a horse (actually her favorite one that has a permanent home on her dresser), fence and food trough. I added some actual oats to the trough (which I think all of one person noticed, but it made me happy) and a couple little hay bales in front of the fence.

Since the toys took of most of the cake, I decided to make a cake banner (which, really, is one of my new favorite ways to jazz up a cake) by cutting diamond pieces (using that same purple woodgrain paper) and adding some purple sparkly letters (Halloween clearance at Michaels!) and stringing it on more jute.

It was supposed to say 'Happy Birthday Avalee' but I ran out of room for her name, haha.

When Avalee first said she wanted a horsie party, the first party activity I thought of was a old fashioned hay hunt. I used to love hunting for pennies in the hay at our town's annual festival, and it seemed like the perfect activity. However, it seemed like a daunting task to bring hay inside (December in Oregon=no outside activities). Then, it occurred to me that we could use the kids' sandbox! I bought a bunch of those larger bales of straw (they ended up going on clearance for $2! Let's just say we ended up with much more than we needed, haha!) and dumped it in in the sandbox that was set up in the living room. I added some mini horse toys and lots of pennies.
The kids went in a couple at a time, according to age, to hunt for their treasures. It was pretty fun and cute to watch them digging around!

The birthday girl and her bff went in first...

It became a kind of free-for-all!

I'm not sure I'll get any of the moms to bring back their kiddos to the next party though, after they ended up taking home a bunch of straw!

And, I always try to include at least one craft activity so the kids can take hone something with them. I decided on hobby horses for this one.

I knew it would have to be something simple, for all the various aged kids. I used a template of a horse head (just Googled it) and traced it (over and over!) onto white cardstock then cut them out. I also gathered up a bunch of cardboard wrapping tubes (thanks to everyone who donated!) for the stick part of the horse. I gave the kids crayons, stickers, jewels ad yarn (for the manes) to decorate their horsies. When they finished, we (adults) stapled the heads to the tubes.
They turned out great and the kids seemed to really enjoy making them!

The party girl with her finished hobby horse.

I also had some horse masks the kids could color and decorate, but I think only one kid actually did (the hobby horses took up a lot of time), lol.

I went very light on party favors, since the kids were already taking home their horses and the prizes they found from the hay hunt. I made up some trail mix (hit up the bulk section of my grocery store for all the ingredients and put it together myself), put about a cup each in cellophane bags and tied it with a ribbon.

And, there you have it! I think this was one of the least expensive parties I have thrown (I don't have any exact figures, but definitely under $100, maybe close to $50) but I didn't have to sacrifice anything.

Again, here are some of my party-planning money-saving tips:

Use what you have! You might be surprised at what you have laying around that would be perfect for your party. If you are a scrapbooker or crafter, you may have all the paper, stickers, glue, etc you need. You really can save a ton by simply checking your supplies first!

Decorate simply! You don't have to spend a fortune to make your party look nice. One of my favorite decorations are pictures. Pick out some faves and send them to your favorite printer (I like Costco, because they're cheap and fast) And, I guarantee everyone loves looking at pictures of the party gal or guy! Use two, 20 or 200; make them into a banner, put them in frames, make some posters. Be creative!

Make your own! You don't have to spend a fortune at the party store (do you know what I bought at the party store? The balloons and some clearance napkins. That's it.) buying all kids of decorations. Get out your scissors, tape and paper and make your own. Even if you don't have a Cricut, you can still make some great stuff (but, maybe check around, because you might have a friend who does have a Cricut you can borrow or even trade services!) by hand or using your computer. Raid your kids' coloring books and reading books for pictures you can use. The decorations are so much more personal when they're done with love, by hand. And, of course cheaper!

Do it at home! It really is so much cheaper to host a party in your own home. Renting a place is expensive, plus you usually have to add food into that too (pizza, etc). You can also control everything much better in your own environment. If you can have it at home, do it!

And, finally a word to those people who scoff at my attention to detail when it comes to planning my kids' parties. People will often hint, or downright say, that I'm going overboard. They say it's silly to plan parties like this for kids because they can't remember them later or that they really couldn't care less. To them I say, look at my girl.

She is happy. That's it. It's all that matters to me.
I don't spend a fortune on my parties, and in fact, I've just shown how you can save money. I do put a lot of time into them, but I also put a lot of love too. It's personal to me and I consider my kids in every aspect of my planning (from how may people to invite so they don't get overwhelmed to food appropriate to eat for them and their similar-aged friends).

Will she remember her 3rd horsie party in five, ten, 25 years? Probably not. But, she can look back on those pictures and say, “Wow, I looked really happy. I looked like I was having fun.” And, I'll tell her, “You were. You did.” :)

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Avalee Turns Three!

It's hard for me to believe, but my baby girl is now three. For some reason, three seems like that age where they're really growing up; they're definitely not a baby anymore and are moving past toddlerhood. And, I'm not sure why, but this birthday seemed to just sneak up on me too. Maybe it's because she is my baby or because I know she is our last, but suddenly there I was faced with the fact that my Avalee was now a little girl.

Of course, to top it all off, she has really changed a lot recently and definitely seems to be much older now. She has always been so well spoken with a huge vocabulary (just like her big brother) to go along with it. But, now she's just talking all the time and about everything. It's amazing to hear the sentences she strings together. She is also singing up a storm, which again has been something she's always done, but now it's actual songs, hehe. I almost can't believe she's the same Avalee from a couple months ago! She also just has a different air about her, acting much more mature than she did even just last month (although, I assure you, those tantrums still pop up from time-to-time!).

She has always been the quieter of my two kiddos, and tends to be a bit more reserved. She really takes him time to ponder things, and it takes her a little longer to warm up to people too. She is still social, like her brother, though and really enjoys being around other people. She's always asking if her 'fwends' are coming over to play or if we're going somewhere to play with new friends.

But, my most favorite thing about my girl (and always has been) is her happy, shiny demeanor! She has always been so cheerful and upbeat and is almost never without a smile on her face. That attitude also seeps into her relationships with everyone, and she loves like no other. She will shower you with kisses, bestow hug after hug and tell you 'I Love You' (along with signing it, of course) a thousand times just before breakfast! She is so loving, caring and gracious and I'm always telling myself how lucky I am to get to be her mama!

So, this year for our new little three year old, Miss Avalee got not one, not two but three birthday celebrations! The first was technically my birthday celebration with family, but since our birthdays are only a day apart we kind of shared. ;o) She got to open a couple presents and help Mommy blow out the birthday candles (and, of course, have her share of cake and ice cream).

The next day was her birthday, and it started out with Mommy making her favorite breakfast; a waffle (in the shape of a birthday cake) and scrambled eggs. Of course, I added a candle for her to blow out too. She loved it!

After Daddy got home, we decided the four of us would go out for dinner at our favorite local Mexican restaurant. The best part of dinner was when they came over to sing 'Feliz Cumpleanos' to Avalee they also put a huge sombrero on her head! She wasn't quite sure what to make of everything; the crazy hat, the song, everyone staring at her. Her reaction was just priceless!

After dinner, we went home to open presents (Avalee was presented with a cupcake, since we already had about half of my birthday cake left from the day before, haha) which included a couple special gifts from her big brother. :)

Do you like how big bro is 'helping' her blow out the candle? Ha!

Avalee was presented with a special present from Zavion' a crown he made himself and a veil of sorts (using leftover tulle from her party). :)

Of course, the rewards are aplenty with these two!

Miss A in her new birthday outfit from Zavion.

We had her big birthday party the next weekend (usually, I would have it on the closest Saturday to the actual birthday but that happened to fall on the same day as the big holiday parade this year) and invited all her friends and family. She requested a horsie party earlier in the year, so that was the theme. Thanks to my Cricut, Pinterest and my own imagination (and, if I may go so far as to say skill too!) I put together a horsie party catered to my little girl. I had a feeling she was going to enjoy it, just because she was so impressed with the little elements I had been working on over the last month or so. It sure made me happy that I was making her happy!

I will, as usual, add another post very soon with all the details of Miss Avalee's horsie party...stay tuned!

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Gift Giving Guide: Part 1: Stocking Stuffers

I know; it seems that anyone and everyone who has a blog out there is sharing their gift ideas with you. But, still it seemed like fun, and maybe just maybe I'll have something new you haven't seen before!

I'm planning on sharing with you everything I do...yep, everything. Haha! As we are on a tight budget, I make a lot of Christmas gifts for giving. Personally, these are my favorite kind of gifts; they're personal and so full of love. Whether I'm giving them or receiving them, homemade gifts just make my heart happy.

So, I'm going ton share some of my absolute favorite homemade gifts! Some are my own tried and true that I make each year, some that I've made once and have loved the result and even some that I've seen out there (Pinterest!) that look really nifty.

But, first I'm going to kick off my gift giving guide with my personal stocking stuffer favorites!
And, here is my aside about stocking stuffers... I love stocking stuffers!

So, do my kiddos, apparently!

Personally, it's my favorite part of the gift giving Christmas Day scene. We wrap all of our stocking stuffers, which I think really makes it so much more fun (they don't get wrapped all fancy, and it's a great way to use up those scraps of paper from other gifts) and gives you a reason to not have to buy a lot more (and expensive) Christmas gifts. I also don't believe in the traditional loading up the stockings with toys and candy. In fact, if we give any candy at all, it's usually just a piece or two (and often from the kids' Halloween buckets, haha). I do, however, load up on fruit. See, my kiddos love fruit and my six year old loves 'different' types of fruit. So, I try to get fruit that we don't have everyday (ie: Apples, bananas, oranges) to stuff in their stockings; last year it was kiwis and mangoes. The kids love it and I'm happy that they're snacking on fruit Christmas morning instead of Tootsie Rolls.

So, without further ado, here is my list of stocking stuffer ideas for the family...

Packets of seeds
Small flashlights or glowsticks
Packets of Koolaid (a real treat for my kiddos-although we only make sugar-free- plus it can be used in crafts!)
Cupcake wrappers, sprinkles, colored sugars (make your own!)
Hair pretties, costume jewelry, nail polish for girls
Neck or bow ties for boys (my six year old loves dressing nice)
Gloves, hats, scarves
Fun socks or leggings
Small photo albums with family photos
Fancy scissors, paper punches, stamps...
Googly eyes
Pipecleaners, pompoms
Glue or tape (double stick is great for kids-find it at the Dollar Tree!)
Die Cut shapes (if you have a Cricut, make your own!)
Chapstick (my kids always steal mine!), lotion
Bubble bath, bath paint, crayons...
$5 gift cards to their favorite places to eat or even stores to shop
Silly putty or playdough (and cookie cutters to go with these!)
Cookie cutters
Cheap movies (Target has $5 section with lots of different kids movies)
Small books, puzzles, activity pads
Tickets to fun outings like the zoo, a play, the aquarium (you can even make your own 'coupons' to avoid buying these all at once & remember to check out Groupon!)
Movie tickets
Tokens-we have a carousel in out town so I toss a couple of those in there, but you could also do Chuck E Cheese
Rolls of coins for their piggybanks
Chalk or crayons (you can even make your own in fun shapes!)
Coloring books or small rolls of craft paper (Micheal's has rolls of color paper in the dollar section)
Sticky notes (kids love these!)
Silly Bandz
Rocks-agates, geodes, crystals (my son loves rocks and even makes up his own observations)
Hot cocoa
Homemade marshmallows
Small recipe books or recipe cards
Christmas ornaments
Super balls or small playground balls
Matchbox/Hotwheels cars
Playing cards
Card games
Travel board games (you can often find these in the travel section)
CDs or gift cards for MP3 downloads
Magazines (you can even attach a note saying they're getting a subscription)
Sand toys
Play kitchen things (utensils, play food, etc)
Small water bottles
Fun pencils
Bubbles (you can get party favor packs at most stores)
Small toy figures (there are little Disney princess ones for girls and little superhero for the boys)

*As you could have guessed by my list, my kiddos are really into arts and crafts! However, most of the craft things can be enjoyed by all kiddos!

Fuzzy socks
Lip gloss
Small picture frames (magnetic that can go on the fridge are always good)
Hair ties, barrettes
Favorite magazine (again, include a note giving a subscription)
Puzzle books
Nail polish
Gift cards for manicure/pedicure, hair salon, etc
Gift card to her favorite restaurant
Small bottles of her favorite liquor or mixers
Measuring spoons or cups
Recipe cards or small recipe book
Stationery set
Gardening gloves
Seed packets or bulbs
Cookie cutters
Travel coffee mus or personalized coffee mug (pictures of the kids, wedding pictures, etc)
Flavored teas/coffees
CD or giftcard for MP3s
Small jewelry box
Giftcards for family photos (or even photo sharing sites where she can make albums or print out photos, like Shutterfly)
Family Christmas ornament
Scrapbooking supplies
Coupons for date night (have a babysitter already lined up and movie/restaurant gift card purchased)
Gift card to Groupon, Restaurant.com, Living Social (moms love to save money!)
Small purse, wristlet, coin wallet
Attachments to Kitchen Aid mixer
Cricut (if she has one) accessories (cutting mat, extra blades, spatula, etc)
Small flashlight (purse size)
Manicure set
Bubble bath, salts, fizzies
Lingerie (make sure the kids are distracted though, hehe!)
Cell phone cover
Small camera (purse size)
Hand sanitizer
Gift card to Bath & Body Works (I tell my hubby every year; I love what he gets me from there, but a gift card goes a lot further with those after-Christmas sales!)
Small desk calendar
Bud vases

Flashlight or headlamp (guys think these are so cool, haha)
Small desk calendar
Tools (screwdriver, wrench, pliers, etc)
Universal remote
Drill bits
Warm gloves, scarves
Work gloves
Picture frames for his desk
Flavored coffee
Travel mug or personalized coffee mug
USB drive
Favorite magazine (with subscription)
Bartending supplies
Hand cream
Tool belt
Money clip
Water bottle
Video game strategy guides
Coupons for you to take over his 'man-jobs' (mow lawn, take out garbage, etc) sometimes
Coupons for date night (same as for the gals)
Cell phone case/clip
Bottle of nice beer (World Market has the single bottles) or get a six-pack, put one in the stocking and hide the rest
Hot sauce (go ahead and laugh, but is my hubby runs out of his Cholula...hehe)
Coupon for paintballing, fight night, golf course (coordinate with the wives of his friends so they can get the same thing)
Wii points card
Gear for their favorite hobby or sport (for my hubby that's cycling gear and video game accessories)
Beer cozy
Nice bottle opener
Swiss Army knife
Gift card to get his car detailed
Massage oil with coupons for massages from you (maybe make this a date night...hehe)
Gift cards to favorite lunch spots (my hubby usually takes leftovers for lunch, so really appreciates gift cards to go out to eat a few times)
Tire gauge
Air compressor to plug in car adapter
Replacement needles for airing up balls
Favorite team pennant, car sticker, flag, etc
Spice rubs
BBQ supplies (mitts, apron, brush, tongs)
Set of nice shot glasses

*And, don't be afraid to start traditions, even with stocking stuffers. I get my hubby a Dilbert desk calendar every year (for about the last ten years). He expects it, but doesn't care!
And, also don't limit homemade things for just the 'big' gifts. Although I didn't include it, I also make homemade goodies like marshmallows, caramels, caramel corn to go in my hubby's or kiddos' stockings.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Science Birthday Party...Part 2, Experiments

I think the biggest challenge for this party was coming up with all the experiments They had to be easy enough that a large group of 5-6 year olds with minimal supervision could handle, while still keeping them entertained. I went back and forth so many times with different experiments, and even changed it up the night before the party. I also had a couple back-up experiments just in case we got through them too quickly or something happened.
Something that was really important was to have everything prepped in advance. I know from experience how crazy it gets during the party, and I didn't want to have to be rushing around trying to find food coloring or containers. And, since I had a couple 'assistants' (my best friend and mom, as usual, saving the day for me!) I wanted to make sure they knew what to do if I had to run off somewhere else.

The kiddos were all ready to start experimenting (that's my long haired hippie kiddos on the left, hehe)!

Something else I did, was in addition to buying the actual experiment supplies, was to buy small cake pans (Dollar Tree has them in a two pack for $1) that the kids could perform their experiments in. Although we were outside for most of the experiments, and the table was covered in plastic, I thought it would help to contain all the kids' experiments. I also bought some cookie sheets (from the dollar store) that resembled medical trays (at least I thought so, haha) to hold all the pieces of the experiments, so that I could have them all set up and ready to go. And containers for each child to use for their slime experiment so they could then could take their slime home in it.
These little things went a long way in keeping everything running smoothly!

So, in order these are the experiments we did at the party.

Grow Your Own Snow


  • Kit-sold at Michaels (we used three kits for about six kids)
  • Containers to hold the snow-We used plastic Dixie cups
  • Water-We used turkey basters (bought at Dollar Tree) so the kids could easily add their own water.
  • *Optional-food coloring
This one is pretty self-explanatory; just follow the directions on the box (after the snow is 'made' you can add in a few drops of food coloring). Ha!



  • Modeling clay or playdough (word to the wise here: I tested with playdough & it worked great but when I went to pick up supplies I saw the modeling clay was really cheap. Since several sites used this, I bought it instead. It turned out it was really hard for the kids to mold, so unless you have older kids, I would stick with the playdough)
  • Spoons to add baking soda (I used my daughter's old baby spoons-those little plastic type)
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • *Optional-Food coloring (though if they can the kids will want to add it to everything)
How to:
  • Have the kids make form their playdough/clay into volcano forms (you may find it easier to have them mold it around a cup). It doesn't have to be perfect; just have a hole in the middle to put in the solution.
  • Add a couple spoonfuls of baking soda to each volcano (best if parents do this part to avoid adding too much)
  • Have the kids add the vinegar (again we used turkey basters here) and watch the explosion!
  • This is really a fun experiment that's easy to do (and doesn't cost a lot in supplies) for the kids! The best part is that they can keep adding the vinegar over and over to keep making their volcanoes erupt (and that's the perfect time for you to get set up for the next experiment). :)


  • Mixing bowls
  • Warm water
  • Elmer's glue
  • Food coloring
  • Craft stick
  • Borax
How to:
**This one I handled I little different, since there were several components involved. There are two different solutions that need to be mixed together here, so I pre-measured them and let the kids add them.
In one container (these were the plastic bowls I had for each child and I also wrote each name on with permanent marker) add:
  • 1/3 cup warm water, 1/2 cup Elmer's glue
  • Then let the kids add:
  • Six drops food coloring of choice and stir with craft stick
In a separate container (again I pre-added the ingredients using plastic canning jars) add:
  • 3/4 cup warm water and 2 teaspoons Borax.
  • Then have the kids just shake, shake, shake to mix up the ingredients!

  • Have the kids pour the second mixture (in the cup) into the first (in the bowl) and stir. They might start stirring using the craft stick, but will eventually have to use their hands when it thickens up. Make sure they incorporate everything together as well as possible and really knead it together. There will be some leftover water which is completely normal.

The kiddos are all enjoying their new slime!

Pudding Creations


  • Pudding (or you could even do ice cream, yogurt, etc)
  • Mix-ins (I had sprinkles, gummy worms, crushed cookies & candies in various test tubes and petri dishes)
How to:
Again pretty self-explanatory..just let the kids add whatever they want! :)

My birthday boy enjoying his pudding!

Mentos/Diet Coke Geysers

The kids were lined up waiting for their turn!


  • 1 or 2 liters Diet Coke
  • Mentos candies (about four per bottle)
How to:
  • Put the soda bottles on as flat a surface as possible
  • Give each child their Mentos
  • Add the Mentos and get out of the way!
*Since we were dealing with younger kiddos, we had each one go up (one at a time) and my husband opened up the bottles (make sure you don't open until just before you add the candy) for them so they could concentrate on just adding the candy.

My son was the first to go and really got it started off right!

My hubby also discovered using a toilet paper roll placed over the opening to the bottle gives the kiddos with smaller hands easier aim to add the candy. Just be aware you'll only get a couple uses out of each roll, as they get wet quickly (you can also but Mentos launchers from Micheal's, as well as several online stores)!

What is funny to me here is the reactions of all the kids in the background!

And, that's it! The kids all had a fantastic time and got to take home some of their wonderful creations (the snow, slime and the pudding creations were consumed about two minutes after they each made them, haha).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A science birthday party:Part 1...

As promised, here are the details from Zavion's science themed birthday party!

To start at the beginning... We had been planning this party over the course of about six months, which gave me ample time to gather supplies, place orders, find and test experiments, and finally make all the decorations as well as put together all the experiments. So, what am I saying? It is, of course, possible to quickly throw something together, but it is really helpful if you can at least start your planning a couple months in advance (trust me, your sanity will be tested!).

I'll start out with the party invitations. I saw a great idea on Pinterest to use petri dishes to hold the invitations, and while I knew they couldn't be mailed, I figured they would be great for passing out to school friends. My problem was I got started much too late to have petri dishes ordered in time, but luckily Target to the rescue! They had some petri dishes (in the perfect size) with slime and a little toy in the Halloween dollar section. I just took out the insides, and added the invitations. I cannot remember where I got the idea for the invitation wording, but if I find it later, I'll add the source. I just printed the invitations using Print Shop, folded them and put them in the petri dishes. A mini address label with the kids names on them helped keep the petri dishes closed. Zavion passed these out at school, and they were a huge hit (for both parents and kiddos alike!).

And, as with all my parties, I divided it up into categories;



Activities/games or in this case, Experiments


Two of the biggest decorations for this party were the giant Periodic table and chalkboard. I knew I really wanted to make a big statement about this being a science themed party (like the experiments wouldn't do that right? Haha!), and that's where the idea for the Periodic Table came in. I had been seeing a lot of great ideas on Pinterest using paint chips for various things (pain chip banners, note books, using it for confetti...) and it hit me! I could use the big square paint chips for the Periodic Table! So, I set out for Lowes and after about 15 minutes of choosing my colors (I learned there aren't really any 'set' colors, you just have to separate accordingly) and counting out all those paint chips, I was armed and ready to go. I set my laptop up in front of me for reference and got to work putting all the colors together. Once, I had the actual table in place I also needed to somehow get the symbols on the squares. I elected to use my Cricut to cut out all the symbols, which worked wonderfully! Once everything was cut out, I got to work applying them to the squares and then taped it all together. After that, it was a matter of taping that entire piece onto some poster board, for support, then adding the title (using more Cricut letters). This was definitely one of the cheapest party decorations I've ever done! I was very happy with how it turned out, and it held an honorable spot, on the wall above the fireplace.

One of my other big ideas was to create a giant chalkboard that would give the food table area a feeling of being in a science lab. It was one of those things I really wanted to do, but saw not getting completed. However, I decided it was just too important to put on the backburner! I bought a huge piece of MDF at Lowes (same trip as the paint chips...hubby and I split up) and had them cut a smaller 5x4 piece. I picked up some chalkboard paint and put my hubby to work painting the thing. After a week of painting, drying and curing, it was ready! I also gave my hubby the job of writing down some real equations (I know having a math/science/computer geek hubby would come in handy, hehe!). I also made a last minute decision to write the happy birthday message on the chalkboard, rather then my usual banner that I make. I was really pleased with my decision to do so, because it saved me so much time and it just looked really great too! The finished piece was propped against the wall on the food table and gave it exactly the feel I had envisioned! :)

The rest of the party décor was kept pretty minimal this year (since it was just a kids party, I didn't think they would notice much of the decorations).

For the door sign (I think it's important to always have something on your front door to welcome guests), I had a big beaker (tile printed from my computer then traced onto foam board and cut out) that spilled out a big blob (just using some glittered scrapbooking paper) with 'Zavion's 6th birthday.'

I wanted the fireplace mantle to resemble a working lab, so purchased a group of beakers (Amazon.com: $10.99/5) that I filled with colored water and/or water beads (if you haven't seen these, they are amazing! They're supposed to be for floral arranging, but Zavion envisioned them for his party and they gave a nice experiment feel) then we added dry ice to some to make the 'experiments' bubble. I had a couple beakers set on top of a faux book I bought at Michaels (stenciled 'Chemistry' on at the last minute), Zavion's microscope at the other end and a couple props between (including an Einstein bobble head that came in a long ago Happy Meal...remember when party planning to always look around at what you already have!).

In front I taped several balloons that I had stenciled (using the inverse of Cricut cut letters and a Sharpie) He, the symbol for Helium. I'm guessing that was lost on most of our little guests, but it made me happy. ;o)

I made a simple banner that said 'Experiment' to hang in the lab area (which started out in our driveway and moved to the living room when it started to rain) using my Cricut and various shades of green scrapbook paper.

On the lab table itself, I used some photo holders (Target dollar spot) to hold beakers I had cut out with the letters 'LAB' glued on the front, using (you guessed it!) my Cricut. I added some little bubbles to the top and a piece of green paper in the bottom to make it look like they held different liquid concoctions.

For the first time, I purchased some of my party items! When the idea of the party first came to my mind, I saw these awesome bottle wrappers. I always put bottle wrappers on my list, but they always get pushed to the back, and never completed. But, when I saw these I just knew I had to have some. I originally had planned to make my own, using a similar idea, but in the end felt they were just so cool I probably couldn't improve on them anyway. They came with some soda labels too, and since my mom had already purchased some mini bottles of soda, it seemed perfect. And, I just couldn't beat the price either!

And, because of a small cake issue, I was forced to buy some last minute cupcakes which meant I needed cupcake picks, And, when I say last minute, I'm talking about 10PM the night before the party! I could have made my own but wouldn't have slept, so instead turned to the same company and ordered the cupcake picks and wrappers. They arrived via email in a PDF file the next morning and I was able to get them printed, cut out and placed in the cupcakes just in time...whew!

And, speaking of the cake... It was quite a community labor! A friend of mine made the amazing fondant pieces onto of the cake and my sister's friend made the cake. The night before the party, I made the signs to go on the cake (I was literally bowing down before my Cricut at this point...hehe) and finished it off with a fun border of blue Skittles. It turned out wonderfully and the birthday boy was quite impressed.

I decided to keep the food pretty simple, since again we were just expecting Zavion's friends (and not all the usual Grandparents, aunts, cousins, etc) so made some quick peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (you can do the same with cheese quesadillas, if you have any peanut butter allergies) and cut them out with beaker cookie cutters. I placed them on a metal baking pan I bought (at the dollar store) that resembled a lab tray.

I also had a couple large vases (IKEA) that I use all the time, and they just happed to resemble large beakers, so filled those with chips and pretzels and set them out. Everyone's favorite treat though were the Jello filled petri dishes with worms sticking out. They were very simple to make; just poured the Jello into the petri dishes (Amazon.com: $5.99/25) then added the worms and refrigerated. I think if I just had those to eat, the kids would have been happy!

And, for the little scientists themselves? I ordered disposable lab coats online for each child to use at the party and take home with them. They were surprisingly inexpensive at $1.65/ea and with 10 kids (this is where you can make a big impact without spending a fortune...just invite fewer kids! I'm guessing your child won't mind or even notice that your friends kids aren't there, right? Just set a limit-in our case I told Zavion 10 kids-and I guarantee that will enjoy getting to pick their own guests) it was within the budget.

I decided to make 'official' badges for each of the kids too, so I bought some badge covers and clips at WalMart ($2.95/20) and quickly printed something off the computer. The kids were very impressed by these. In addition to their lab coats and badges, each kiddo also started off with their very own clipboard that listed out all the experiments they would be doing. These were purchased at Staples for $.50/each (there was a limit of two, so in I went with my two munchkins and my mom, and armed them each with two clipboards and $1...then I made my hubby go back with me later for the four more...haha) then I added a coating of chalkboard paint so the kids could write directly on them. I told the kids they could use them to jot down observations, draw predictions of experiments, etc. A couple kids took that very seriously and would not put their clipboards down!

I had also intended to buy some goggles for each kid, but couldn't find any at the dollar store, and felt that it would send my budget over. They would have been a nice addition, but since we weren't doing anything
really dangerous, they weren't actually necessary.

I didn't want to go all out for party favors this year, and felt that the experiments they were going to take with them would be a huge part of that. In addition, they of course got to take their lab coats, badges, and clipboards, plus each guest got a test tube filled with Skittles (Amazon.com: $2.99/20).

And, of course the most important aspect of any science party are the experiments, right? Since we did quite a few experiments, I've decided to dedicate an entire blog post to just those. So, this will continue soon with Part 2: The Experiments!

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