How to Host a Party at a Party Place

Usually, we have birthday parties for our kids at our house. We have a kid-friendly home, and enjoy having people over. Our new house isn’t quite as spacious as our old home, so I thought I’d host my son’s birthday party this year at a party place. Overall, it was a success, so I thought I’d share with you my tips on how to host a party at a Party Place.

How to Host a Party at a Party Place - all the tips to make your party a success!

Party Place Research

Start by researching locations. On my phone, I went into Google Maps, and typed in terms “Play Place”, “Kids Party Place”, “Play Area”. Since we’re new to the area, this gave me a good idea of the options that were not too far from our house. I chose three to check out – an indoor playground, a trampoline park, and an arcade/fun center.

What to consider when choosing a Party Location

I took an afternoon to check out the locations. I brought my son with me so that he could weigh-in as well. It is good to check hours of operation before heading out, two of the locations I was considering were not open in the mornings. There were certain criteria that I was looking at for our party, so I kept these in mind as I looked at the locations.

Price – Price will always be a factor when choosing where to host a party. But different party locations break down their pricing differently. Some only factor in children, and food for adults needs to be added on for an additional cost. Some offer a limited amount of time in the party room or playing on the attractions. The final price tag can vary greatly when you consider items that you would think are standard, but the location considers “add ons”.

Location – How far will my guests have to drive? I was looking for a location no more than 15 minutes away from our home. This distance will vary depending on if you are in a more urban or rural setting.

Activities – For my 4-year-old and his friends, I wanted activities that they’d enjoy doing. Slides are awesome at their age, Laser tag is frustrating and hard.

Variety of food – Most party places don’t allow you to bring in your own food, and they have a limited menu. I have two picky eaters, so I wanted food that my boys would enjoy.

Space – How much space do we have for the party? How far is the party space away from the activities?

Other considerations – Other things I considered were how much time they allowed for the party, how far the parking was from the location, and how friendly the staff was. You might also want to consider looking at upgrade packages (some offer party favor bags, or bonus gifts for the birthday boy/girl), if those interest you.

Questions to ask when choosing a Party Place

When you host a party in your own home, you have an idea of what to expect, but when you’re hosting it offsite, you’ll want details on how they structure your party.

Food – how much, and when is it served? Can you bring your own cupcakes/cake? If there are children with allergies attending, are there other options?

Party Host – are you offered a host? What are their responsibilities? Do you share the host with other parties that are happening?

Decor – do they offer decor? What does it look like? Can you bring in your own decor? Is there anything that they do not allow (glitter, helium or mylar balloons, etc)? Are you able to come in advance to decorate? How far in advance? If your family loves pinatas, will they allow a pinata? A traditional one, or a pull-pinata?

Invitations – do they offer invitations? Is there a parent consent form that needs to be included in the invitations?

Deposit – do they require a deposit, and how much?

Final head count – when do they need the final head count for the party?

Rain contingency – if any part of the facility is outdoors, is there a rain contingency?

Where is the party hosted? – is there a special room? Upstairs/downstairs/outside? You’ll want any special instructions for the invitation.

cupcakes for party

 

Booking your party

Call or show up to book your party, and make any deposit needed. Confirm any special details at that time, and confirm the time and date to send out invitations. Depending on the popularity of the party location you’ll want to book a month or more in advance of the date.

Send out invitations, either those that were supplied by the location, or your own. Make sure to include your contact details for RSVP.

Party Prep – the week of

The week of the party, you’ll want to square away the final details.

Cake – if you’re ordering a cake or cupcakes, you’ll want it ordered already, or order it now. If you’re making your own, you’ll want to decide on your recipe or boxed mix and frosting.

Favors – will you be offering a traditional favor bag? What items do you want to include? Purchase those items, and put together the favor bags based on the number of RSVPs (plus your child and any siblings), adding a few extras for any extra guests.

Decorations – will you be using the standard decor, or adding your own touches? Themed confetti, plates/cups/napkins, balloons, streamers, or special table cloths will add to the theme, but can also add to the expense.

Final Head count – get a final head count including family, guests and family of guests.

Confirm with the party place – mix-ups happen! Call a few days before to confirm the day and time of your party, as well as any special details. Clearing up any misunderstandings before you show up will make the special day much less stressful!

party decor

Extras to put in your Party Bag

In addition to the cake, favors, and specialty decor, there are a few things you’ll want to have in your bag. These are things you might be used to having at home, but you might forget to bring to an offsite location.

Scissors – these will come in handy for cutting tablecloths, opening a stubborn gift, or cutting ribbon on balloons.
Candles – your candles might already be on your cake – if not, be sure to grab them and have them with you.
Matches or a lighter – so easy to forget! Remember to pack something to light those birthday candles.
Cash – you’ll probably want to tip the party hostess, and servers always appreciate cash – consider having cash on hand to tip at the end of the party.

tables at party place

The day of the party

Here are a few tips to have a great time on the day of the party:

Show up early – if you’re adding to the decor, show up at least 30-45 minutes early to help set up.

Check in with the party host or hostess – be sure to remember their name!

Take photos of your party set-up before the kids come.

Take lots and lots of photos during the party.

Enjoy yourself!

playing party games

A Birthday gift to me

Friday was my birthday. My 36th birthday. Which meant three things. The first was that I got notifications all day long from Facebook, people wishing me a happy birthday. Lots of people that I love and care about… and some people that I can’t remember why their on my friends list at all! Each Facebook message – and each phone call from family – was a precious reminder that I’m loved.

The second thing that happens is that I make a call to schedule my mammogram. I’m 36, and my two closest female relatives have battled breast cancer. For those of us with a family history, we start making our annual dates with this pretty machine when we turn 35.

The mammogram machine

Yup, that’s the photo I took last year, on my first date with the mammogram machine. It wasn’t so bad. There were no flowers or chocolates… but I also was told not to put on deodorant. Any date where you don’t put on deodorant as part of the getting-gussied-up process is going to have a different bar for success, don’t you think?

It isn’t a coincidence that the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and MomSelect reached out to me to share this important message in February. For me, a mammogram in February makes sense because it coincides with my birthday. For you, it might make sense because of Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s day is a great reminder to get an annual check. While you’re in the changing room trying on something lacy – make a quick phone call to the doctor to make sure that the curves that fill out that lace and trim is healthy – and stays that way! And if you’re not in a situation where you feel compelled to buy some lingerie mid-February, maybe you just need a reminder that your breasts need a little squeeze. A mechanical hug, if you will…

Love yourself - Schedule a Mammogram!

Last year I went for my mammogram, I was a little scared. It was like part of me was admitting that breast cancer could happen to me. And running away is so much easier, y’all. Thinking that everything will be fine. But getting the report back, confirming that everything is fine – that feels so much better! If you’re nervous about getting your first mammogram, check out the CTCA website and type “mammogram” in the search box. You’ll find lots of information on what mammograms are all about. Or, feel free to ask your questions in the comment section below – I’m no expert, but I’m happy to share what I know!

So, what is the third certainty that comes with having a birthday? Blowing out the candles and making a wish. A birthday isn’t a birthday without getting to make an annual wish while blowing out those dancing flames. I can’t tell you what I wished (or it might not come true!), but if you know me you’re probably guessing that I wished for something along the lines of a happy and healthy future for myself and my family. And you’d probably be right.

Yes, I received compensation for this post as part of a promotional program with CTCA and MomSelect. I am thrilled to participate because Mammograms are important.

Lego Birthday Favor

When I was a kid, we’d bring cupcakes to school on our birthday to share a treat with the class. With 32 kids in a class, that can add up to a lot of cupcakes. But we didn’t mind. However, schools are trying to teach healthy choices to students, so many schools (ours included) have adopted a “no food treats” policy. Only a couple times a year are we allowed to celebrate with food. The rest of the year we’re encouraged to find other ways to celebrate.

DIY Custom Lego Favors

With this in mind, my son and I headed to the Lego Store. I was hoping to scour the pick-a-brick wall for an idea, preferably one that used 10 or less pieces. We were successful on the first, but not on the second. My son and I came up with this fun little car.

mini lego truck

We then picked out 35 sets of pieces. Whenever possible, I put pieces together into 5s or 10s. This made it easier to keep count, but also meant they took less room in the containers (YAY!)

pieces for lego favor

I then cut out and put together boxes, made labels, created custom Lego Instructions, folded the instructions, (with help from my awesome SIL) and put the pieces into baggies. This process took a whole day! But the result was pretty awesome.

custom lego favors

They ended up costing just over $1 each. Not including my time. And my son LOVED passing out little Lego truck kits to all of his friends. And the kids were super excited to get them.

And I have a craving simpler times. And for store-bought cupcakes.

Funfetti Waffle Recipe

Funfetti waffles recipe

Looking for a fun recipe for a birthday, New Year’s Day, or other special occasion? These Funfetti Waffles are perfect! It took me a couple tries to perfect this Funfetti Waffle recipe, but now it is perfect – fluffy waffles with the perfect amount of sweetness. Great with syrup and butter, whipped cream, or just on their own!

They are actually made using Funfetti cake mix, which give them a sweet flavor, and add fun sprinkles of color throughout the batter. I wish I could say that I came up with this idea out of sheer genius… but it was actually sheer desperation! I had promised my boys that I would make waffles for breakfast, then discovered we didn’t have enough flour. I searched through the kitchen cabinets to find something that might work as a flour-substitute… and found the perfect solution in a box of Funfetti cake mix!

funfetti waffles

The boys immediately declared my Funfetti waffles to be the “best waffles ever!” Though, the first batch was much to dough-y. It took a little tweaking to find a recipe that I was happy with – but the boys didn’t mind being my taste-testers. These picky eaters declared each batch to be awesome!

birthday waffles made using funfetti cake mix

I served my waffles up with syrup, whipped cream, and sprinkles, but you can serve yours however you like. If you’re making these for a birthday breakfast, you might want to add a layer of frosting (maple buttercream, perhaps?) You can add a candle or two if you like to celebrate.

We have a small family of 4, so there were plenty of waffles to store in the freezer for future breakfasts – an awesome, quick breakfast that the kids look forward to! Not the healthiest… but they keep in the freezer for weeks, so I’m not worried about them getting a sugar overload!

 

Funfetti Waffles Recipe:

Yield: about 18 waffles

1 box Funfetti Cake Mix
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 c milk
1 stick melted butter
3 eggs

Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly mixed. Don’t worry about a few small lumps. Scoop batter onto a hot waffle iron, and bake until browned. Remove carefully using tongs and spatula – waffle may be soft, will crisp as it cools.

Funfetti waffle recipe

I hope you enjoy these waffles – they are a breakfast favorite around here… and I’m sure they will be a Birthday Breakfast tradition!

 

Best way to Cut Cake: Cut Cake with a Spool of Thread

cut clean lines of birthday cake with this simple trick!

If you’ve ever taken the time to frost a beautiful cake, you dread the time that it will be chopped up. Sure, you want your guests to enjoy a bite of cake, and you know that dismantling your work of art is part of the process, but seeing all your hard work hacked to crumbs and pieces might make you die a little inside. Instead of attacking your cake with a knife, use a spool of thread for beautiful, clean lines that you might not even notice after cutting! This trick even works on cakes that have been out of the refrigerator for a few hours, with frosting that is a little soft, and cake that is no longer firm.

Grab a spool of thread. Hold the spool in one hand, and the end of the thread in the other. Pull your hands apart so that they are a few inches wider than the with of the cake.use a spool of thread to cut clean lines of birthday cake

With the thread tight, pull the thread straight down over the cake. This will make a clean cut. At the bottom, make sure that the thread reaches all the way down to the cake board (or plate if that is what the cake is sitting on), and pull tight to make sure you have cut cleanly through the whole cake.

Release the thread end, and holding on to the spool, pull the thread out. Repeat the process across the length and width of the cake to cut all of the slices. Then serve your beautifully cut pieces!

Must-know tip! The best way to cut a cake with neat, clean lines - even if it has been sitting out for hours!

How to Write a Thank You Note

Writing a Thank You Note is a lost art. With all the technological ways we have to give our thanks – Facebook, Twitter, Texts, e-mails… the hand-written thank you note is dying.

How to Write a Thank You Note

I’m not saying that every thank-you needs to be hand-written. Sometimes, a simple text message is best. Sometimes, giving the person a shout-out on Facebook so that all your friends can share in the awesomeness is the perfect touch. And any way that you reach out to thank someone is better than not thanking them at all. But there are times that a hand written thank you note is the best way to express your gratitude.

Starting your Thank You Note

You can start with a salutation of some kind. “Dear Auntie” might sound stuffy, so you can start with “Hello” or jump right into your note.

Thank them specifically

Start your note by saying thank you, and give the reason why. Say “Thank you for the wonderful gift” or “Thank you for sharing your time.” “Thank you for taking time out of your day.” Be specific as to why you are thanking them.

Tell them why you are greatful

Don’t stop at thanking them for their action. Tell them the significance of their actions or gift. Phrases like, “It meant so much to me that you took time out of your day to help me with my project, having you there made it go much more smoothly, and the finished result was better than I could have imagined.” tell the recipient that they mattered. When thanking a person for a gift, tell them what you love about the gift. “I love the sewing kit and have it tucked in my bag – it is so helpful for small projects on the go, and it has already come in handy on several occasions.”

Thanking someone for money or a gift card

Thanking someone for money or a gift card calls for special attention. Let them know what the gift has been used for, or will be used for. “Thanks so much for the check. I’ve deposited it in my savings account so that I can use it on my upcoming vacation. I’ll be sure to think of you when I’m relaxing on the beach!” “The Target gift card has already come in handy – I bought some cute and colorful new tops for myself.”
When thanking someone for money or a gift card, don’t mention the amount. The value of the gift is not measured in dollars, it is measured in your appreciation for their kindness.

End the thank you note with a forward-looking message

If you can, use a forward-looking message to end the thank you note. Tell them you look forward to seeing them soon, or at a specific upcoming event. If you have no plans to see the person in the future, tell them you look forward to seeing them online, or seeing their photos on Facebook. Make a final, shared connection with the recipient of your thank you note.

Use an appropriate sign-off

End your note with a sign-off that feels appropriate. “Sincerely” might feel too formal for a situation like this, so try “Love”, “with thanks”, “thanks again”, or (my favorite) a symbol like a heart or a smiley face.

 

Remember that the most important part of writing a thank you note is saying thank you. If someone gave you a gift – a present, time, money, they gave it because they wanted you to have it. Showing your appreciation for what they gave – in whatever form you can show that appreciation – is the way that you value that gift.

 

Dinosaur Party Wrap-up

At the end of April my baby turned one. And suddenly, he doesn’t look like a baby anymore. He’s grown tall and lanky. His baby chubbyness is slimming down as he runs around the house and yard. He climbs up anything his legs can reach.

To celebrate his first birthday, we threw a dinosaur-themed party. When my oldest turned one, we used the theme from his nursery for his first birthday. It was an easy transition. So we did the same here. My baby has a dinosaur themed nursery, and so we threw a dinosaur themed party for him.

You might have already seen the dinosaur invitations with washi tape, the dinosaur wreath, and the tissue paper pennants. I had fun creating handmade items for the party.

I spent the day before prepping food for the party. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies. I had a smash cake for the birthday boy, and a chocolate cake on the side, but also cupcakes for the kids at the party. Cupcakes are so much easier than a large sheet cake when you’re expecting lots of people.

I got a little help putting up decorations for the party… sometimes streamers end up like this when you have a 4-year-old involved!

Instead of getting a heavy helium tank, or schlepping to a party store early in the morning for helium-filled balloons, I hung regular balloons from the ceiling. This also kept them out of the hands of small children during the party.

Before the party, my brother and sister-in-law helped me cut out dinosaur feet for the kids to decorate. We used this template from Make and Takes.

Once they decorated them, they could wear them.

I made several batches of homemade playdoh the day before for the kids to play with. We also had a pinata for the older kids – at the request of big brother.

The birthday boy didn’t know what to do with the dinosaur smash cake he was offered…

And although he loves cake, he hasn’t ever been a big fan of frosting. After we pushed his hands into the cake, he wasn’t a very happy guy.

After a change of clothes and a nap, we opened gifts.

I can’t believe how big he is already! Happy Birthday, little man… I’m looking forward to so many, many more celebrations with you!

Mod Podge Dinosaur Wreath

This Dinosaur wreath is so simple to make that I don’t have an official tutorial for it… but if you want to make your own, or something similar, here is what you need:

Tissue paper (I used the leftovers from my pennant banners)
Ribbon (I used rainbow colored)
Foam craft sheet
Extruded Foam ring (this smooth surface works great for Mod Podging)
Hot Glue
Scissors
Ballpoint pen
Mod Podge
Paintbrush
Google Eye

Use the Mod Podge to layer the tissue paper on the wreath. Make sure the wreath is fully covered. Adding multiple layers will increase the depth of color on the wreath.

Once the wreath is dry, tie a large bow on one side with the ribbon.

With a pen, draw your dinosaur shape on the craft foam, and then cut out.

Hot glue dinosaur on the bow of the wreath, attach the google eye, and hang the wreath.

This week was brought to you by: Stitching

I’ve been spending a lot of time these past weeks stitching. I can’t show you much of what I’ve been working on… but I promise, awesomeness is on the way! Speaking of awesome, if you don’t already follow me on Instagram, you missed out on this awesome set of predictions by my preschooler…

I have managed to get some work done around here between all the stitching…

I put together over 25 ideas for last minute Mother’s Day Gifts, which included a quick mother’s day handprint canvas that I made with the kids.

I haven’t played with plastic canvas in a long time, so making these quick plastic canvas earrings was super fun. I was able to join in on a blog hop for Plasic Canvas Tutorials with Diane of CraftyPod – one day I hope to meet her in person, I’ve been inspired by her work in blogging (and plastic canvas) for years.

Hopefully you had a chance to watch the Washi tape in a live hangout on air that I did with some bloggy friends of mine. You can watch me make washi tape flowers there, or read the step by step washi tape flower tutorial. I had so much fun playing with washi tape that I made a washi tape necklace tutorial as well.

In the next few days, I’ll be sharing more of Baby B’s big first birthday party celebration. Yesterday I showed you how to make a dinosaur shaped cake.

And I checked a big to-do off of my list by finishing up my cross stitch necklace pendants. I mailed them off, and they should have arrived in mailboxes today.

In between we had a lot of our regular day-to-day around here as well. But we did manage to take a morning off to go out to breakfast and hit the pool. Baby B had fun running around the restaurant making new friends. Funny how a baby toddling around can bring a smile to just about anyone’s face.

Dinosaur Smash Cake

For Little Moore’s first birthday, three and a half years ago, I made a small car cake for him to smash into. He doesn’t remember, but he has seen pictures. Quite a few times he has requested that I make him a car cake again. I’m sure I will… but before then I had Baby B’s first birthday cake to make. For Baby B, we were throwing a Dinosaur Birthday Party. I had all kinds of fun ideas planned (I’ll share more with you soon – I promise!), but the cake really had me stumped. Dinosaur cake. How was I going to make this happen?

Sure, I could make a traditional cake and slap some dinosaur toys on it. But I really went all-out for his brother’s birthday… and being a second child myself (and my mother was a second child too), I’m very conscious of second-child syndrome. Yes, some things are going to be different for Baby B than for his big brother… but I’d like to have some things the same, too. So I got baking.

I used one boxed cake mix to make 2 round cakes in 6″ cake pans. I’ve had these cake pans forever, and love them. I used them for Little Moore’s first birthday as well. I got them my last semester in college when I lived in a tiny apartment with no oven. When we were first dating, I used them to bake a birthday cake for my husband in a toaster oven!

I covered a small cutting board to use as the base. I then cut a slice off the bottom of the first round to make the bottom of his legs, and cut off each side to make the front and back of the body. I cut a notch in the middle to make the legs.

From the second cake I cut an arch to make the head, and a pointy bit for the tail, and then put them by the body piece like so:

Yup! Already starting to look like a dinosaur! I then cut the top so the cake was level. Now he looks like this:

I used canned frosting, and gave him a thin layer of frosting. This is called a “crumb coat”. I didn’t worry about crumbs everywhere, because this is getting covered up later. I just wanted to seal everything in. At this stage, he looks pretty ugly.

I tinted frosting green until I got it the right color, and then put it in a piping bag. I grabbed the largest tip I had, which happened to be a star tip. I then piped the green all over every inch of the cake.

With a knife, I smoothed out the frosting.

I added a couple touches later with a contrasting color, for fun… but that’s optional. This is really a simple cake to make – I promise! And, he had his shining moment in the sun… before he was reduced to this…

I hope that in four years, Baby B will look back at photos of this cake and ask for a repeat as well!