Sunday, March 7, 2010

Baby Shower Decor

I actually made this as a gift for a friend's baby shower, but I'm listing it here because it would also make a really cute centerpiece for a serving table, or for a focal point at the party.  I like the idea of a diaper cake because it's an easy, cute way to showcase a very practical gift.  I found the specific directions for assembling the cake here (there's a how-to video about halfway down the page).  By the way, the site that the link above goes to is a great resource for all baby shower related items!  I only did a two-tier cake for this gift, but if I were throwing the party, I might make it three-tier or bigger since it would be a decoration.

For the cake, I used the kind of diapers that the parent-to-be had on their registry list.  It's best to roll them as tightly as possible and then tie the string around them tight as well so they stay rolled.  To decorate it, I assembled things that the new parent would need.  These could come from the registry list, but I happened to find things that went with the parents' theme that weren't on the registry.  I noticed that the registry had a lot of basketball and duck themed items (big surprise, since my group of friends are all huge Oregon Ducks fans!).  So, I sewed a little duckling toy to go on the top, got a rubber duckie bath thermometer and some baby wrist rattles for around the sides, and wrapped the cake in basketball ribbon to cover the strings.   To keep the decorations in place, I used short wooden dowels (you could also use craft sticks).  I taped them to the decorations, then slid the dowels in between the diapers to the middle of the cake.  You can't see the dowels, and the decorations don't fall off!

Variation:  A lot of the guests at the shower asked if the cake was made out of onesies or baby t-shirts.  This would be another great idea, as a new parent can never have too many of these.  You could decorate each of the onesies before rolling it up, or just leave them plain.  This could really be made out of anything that you could roll up (that would stand up and stay rolled).

A note about hosting Showers:  If possible, it's nice to be able to use things for decorations (or for games) that you can give to the Mom after the shower since she'll be able to use them very soon!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Something Old, Something New...

I hosted a bridal shower for a friend of mine, and I wanted something cute and fun for the favors.  I ended up making the boxes to save money, to buy tiny boxes was not only expensive, I also couldn't find any sources that didn't require me to buy a minimum of 50 or 100 of each size, and I only needed to make about 20 of these. 

How I did it:
1. Make the boxes.  Decide what size you want your finished boxes to be.  The bottom boxes of mine are 3.25"x3.25" and the top boxes are 2.5"x2.5".  Purchase regular cardstock (I used white, but they could be any color), and cut it down to the appropriate size.  For mine, this was 5.25"x5.25" and 4"x4" (the extra is for the sides of the boxes.  Draw lines 1" from each side for the bottom boxes and 3/4" for the top boxes (or however high you want your sides to be), and score along the lines.  (Scoring means that you're creasing the paper without cutting all the way through, it makes a nicer seam than folding.)  You can use anything with a pointed tip to score. I used a large nail and a ruler.  Make the lids to the boxes the same way.  If you make them just a smidge bigger than the bases, they'll slide together nicely.  Fold lightly along the score lines so you can see how tall the sides are for writing.
2. It's easiest to do the writing before assembling the boxes.  I wrote "Something" on two sides of the top box.  On the bottom box,  I wrote one word on each side - "Old", "New", "Borrowed" and "Blue".  I used a calligraphy pen, but I'm not a professional calligrapher or anything.  If you really have bad handwriting, you could get vellum and print the words on it from your computer, then cut it and glue it on.   Make sure to write the words on the lids of the boxes, not the bases.
3. Assemble the boxes.  Cut the flap where the sides come together to create a tab.  Fold the sides up along the score lines and fold the tabs in (as shown below).  Use glue to attach the flap from the end to the inside of the side.

4. Fill the boxes.  I filled the bottom box with Hershey kiss candies - it happened to be around Easter, so I found kisses wrapped in green foil, which matched the bride's wedding color.  In the top box, I had just enough room for 2 homemade truffles, drizzled with white chocolate icing colored in the same green color.  (If you use truffles or anything like that, make sure you line your box with waxed paper.) 
5. Tie ribbon around the boxes to hold them together.  Your ribbon will cover the two blank sides of the top box, and two of the words on the bottom box.  Vary which words show so your display looks better.  This is also a good way to hide it if you didn't do a perfect job on some of your calligraphy!
6. Display.  I used a cake pedestal and stacked all the favors, kind of like a Tiffany's display.

Island Themed Party

Ok, this one was wedding related too, but it was the rehearsal dinner so at least the theme was different!  I created an island theme - here's a couple of the details that I made.

Centerpieces: Sand Castles
How I did it:
I found the receipe for a permanent sand castle here.
I mixed up the appropriate amount of sand, and then my sister and I got to work!  It was fun remembering how to make castle components from our family beach trips as kids.  We made two castles, and adorned them with things I had laying around in my craft closet (shells, marbles etc).  Then I made little flags out of cardstock and toothpicks and drew our initials on them.  I put them on these cardboard bases - they are a little brittle when they're dry, so try not to have to move them much after you make them.  If you break a piece off, a hot glue gun works nicely to put it back together.  When I put them on the table, I covered the base with extra sand and added a few candles to the table.

Variation: What if you made a flat piece of sand, kind of roundish, fading out to thinner on the edges, then wrote something in the sand before it dried?  Like W+J=Love, or just a heart, or something else that's meaningful to you.  You could either display this flat, or try to prop it up (remember, it's not the most stable stuff so it probably wouldn't stand straight up unless you glued it to something or if it was really thick)

For the candles (which I didn't take pictures of) I bought regular votives in my colors (lime green and bright blue), and molded some of the sand mixture around the bottom half.  Then I pressed some shells into the sand and let it dry.  They turned out really cute.

Placecards: Treasure Chests
I thought I had saved one of these to take a picture of but I can't find it!
How I did it:
I bought these little cardboard treasure chests from Oriental Trading Company, which is an amazing resource for all DIY'ers.  (I also bought flower lei's and several other things here)
I painted the boxes with regular acrylic paint, watered down to try to make them look a little weathered.
I then painted each person's name on the front in my same bright blue color. (You don't have to be a professional calligrapher, just make it readable!)
I filled them with crinkle paper, which you can usually find in the craft or gift wrapping department.
Then I added things specific to each person, including mini liquor bottles, chocolate coins, etc.
When I put them on the table, I propped them open a bit so you could see both the name on the front, but also the goodies inside!


How I did it:
I designed my invites myself on MS Word.  I strongly recommend searching for new, fun fonts to make your design custom.  A great site for this is Urban Fonts.
As with my programs, I printed these out on regular paper, then took them to the local copy store to have them photocopied onto my cardstock (since my cardstock kept jamming in the printer).
Then I cut them apart and pasted them onto another color of cardstock.

Food Place Cards

I'm a big fan of telling people what they're looking at in a buffet.  So, I usually try to make little signs to go in front of each dish with a clever name (but not so clever that they can't figure out what it is).  (Side note: At a bridal shower that I threw, the bride was an active Weight Watchers participant, so I put the names of the dishes, and also how many "points" for each piece/serving.)
I printed these out on cardstock with my same font from the invitations, then cut them apart and used placecard holders to hold them up.
A note about food: If you're having a smaller party, try to find out if any of your guests have special food needs.  I had two guests at my rehearsal dinner who are allergic to gluten, which seems to be in almost EVERY food we eat.  I think most people who have major allergies like this are used to planning for themselves, but I created a menu with several options they could enjoy, which made them feel comfortable and able to eat with the rest of us, and I didn't have to sacrifice anything that I would have wanted (sometimes all you have to do is change the receipe a bit to avoid an allergy, and the taste stays the same). 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Favors you can use!

Party favors are a fun way to say thank you to your guests, and they're also one of my favorite things to make.  Anytime I think they're appropriate for a party, I'm all over it!  For my wedding, I wanted something that people would actually be able to use later, so I created a list of songs that were special to my husband and I and burned them to CD's. 
How I did it:
1. Choose the songs.  I chose half and my husband chose half.  I've gotten these favors at weddings before, and sometimes people stick with love songs.  I didn't go that route - we just chose whatever we liked best. 
2. Burn them to the CD's.  I used iTunes to do this.  Just make sure you own the actual CD's - if the songs are purchased on iTunes, you can only burn 5 copies before they'll cut you off. 
3. Check your CD's.  I had trouble with some of them not recording all of the songs, so make sure they actually play.  This is kind of time consuming, but worth it.
4. Labels - I found my labels here at  You actually design them on HP's website, then print them out on your photo printer.  They came out really sharp with clear pictures.  But, you're somewhat limited in your design choices and fonts.  I'm sure there's a way to create a custom design in photoshop or something, I'm just not that computer saavy.  You could create a photo in photoshop with text and graphics or whatever, and then upload that as your picture.  I just used regular pictures of us.
5. Cases.  I chose to put my CD's in thin cases - this means it's just one piece, you can't open up the back of it to put a piece of paper in it.  But, they're cheaper and simpler, since a lot of people nowadays don't keep the case anyway.
6. You'll want to tell people what's on the CD.  I printed out large label stickers (Avery 5160 style) and stuck them on the back side of the cases.

7. Display - I put my CD's into a basket and added a sign explaining that they were for guests to take.

A note about favors: I had several people advise me not to do favors, or not to buy very many, because people don't take them.  But, I thought I would be mortified if everyone wanted one and there weren't enough!  So, I made 180 CD's for my 250 guests.  I figured most people would only take one per family (150 families), but I wanted a few extras just in case.  Well, I still have about 80 (or more) of them leftover.  So, my friends were right!!  Don't go crazy on favors, especially if they're expensive.  Mine cost me about $1 each, not including my time of course, which is pretty inexpensive.  But now I have a box of CD's that I can't quite bring myself to throw away!!!  :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hung out to Dry - Unique Photo Display

At my wedding, I wanted a way to show photos of my husband and I growing up, as well as our first years together.  I've been to many other weddings that had slideshows, which were a lot of fun.  However, I already had a lot of other entertainment going on at my wedding, and around 250 guests, all in an outdoor location, so I thought it would be hard to get everyone to focus on a presentation like that.  I came up with this idea instead:

Photo Clothesline

Here's how I did it:
1. I sorted through a million photos from my childhood, and photos from my Mother-in-law.  This was a really fun part of the process, and my Mom and MIL enjoyed it too.  But, it was so hard to narrow down the choices!  I had the Mom's tell me a little background on the pictures I chose so I could write captions.
2. I ended up with about 150 photos, scanned them to the computer, then uploaded them and had them printed by a regular photo printing service.  I could have just printed them out myself, but since most photo places only charge 9 cents for a print, it's really economical to have them do it.
3. I cut the pictures how I wanted them, making some smaller and some bigger, and then pasted them onto cardstock that I had leftover from making my programs and invitations.
Note: This cutting tool from Fiskars is invaluable to anyone who does any kind of papercrafting.  I use it ALL the time.  It does only cut straight lines, but it's still a huge lifesaver for measuring and trimming.  Expect to replace the blades often though (once they get dull they don't make very clean cuts), and they're kind of spendy.  Use your 40% off coupons! (You can get these weekly from Michael's by signing up for their email newsletter)  :)
4. I left some room on the cardstock to write a caption at the bottom, top or side of the photo with the date, who was in the photo, and some kind of funny line about what was happening.
5. I bought a whole bunch of plain clothespins and tied little ribbon bows around the tops.  I thought about spray painting them, but I was going for kind of natural wood theme, so I kept them plain.
6. I used rustic looking twine to string my photos on, again going with my natural theme.  You could use pretty ribbon (maybe even velvet ribbon or rope spray painted gold) if you wanted a more formal look.
7. I made 3 strings - one for his childhood, one for mine, and one for us together, up until the wedding.
TIP: Try to include a variety of pictures and family members.  Also, I attempted to include about the same number of photos of each of us at comparable ages.

(More pictures by my friend and professional photographer, Josh Benson - click to email)
8. You'll need a good place to hang them.  I used the side of my barn.  Just make sure there's plenty of room for people to walk around and look at them, and have some lighting if it will get dark in that area.  People really seemed to enjoy this at the wedding - someone even took down one photo and chased down my brother in law to ask if the 80's mullet picture was really him!
9. After the wedding, I took down the photos and pasted them in the back of my guestbook.  (Side note: My guestbook was paired with a photobooth where guests could paste in a photo from the booth and write a note.  So, after all the photobooth pictures, then I have pages with the clothesline pictures, the book is great fun to look at!)

I used this for my wedding, but it could be a very useful and entertaining tool at any party, particularly celebrating a milestone of some sort.  1st birthday, 40th birthday, Retirement, 50th Anniversary... Possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Glittering Centerpiece

I know I'm focusing a lot on things from my wedding, but that's where most of my entertaining has been centered (lately anyway)!  I originally wanted to make these for all of my tables, but after starting, realized that making 24 of them would be crazy!  But, it would make a great centerpiece for a buffet table.  I used it on my gift table.

By the way, this and most of my other wedding photos were taken by my friend and professional photographer, Josh Benson at JB Photography (he can be reached by email at

Here's how I did it:
1. I bought a whole bunch of flat, mirror-backed faceted crystals
2. Using a dremel tool with a very small drill bit, I drilled two holes in each crystal, one on each side. (You have to hold the crystal still with a pair of tweezers while drilling - this takes some practice)
 - The drill bit gets hot and starts to melt the plastic of the crystals a little bit, so you periodically have to stop and clean off the bit, and also make sure the holes in the crystals are drilling all the way through.
3. Loop jewelry wire through one of the holes and twist around using jewelry pliers, then loop again through a hole in another crystal and twist back around itself.  (See photo). 

Continue this until you have a long enough string of crystals.  My strings were about 20 crystals long on average, but I made some longer and some shorter.  I made sure I had a few crystals with only one hole in them so that the end of the string wouldn't have an empty hole.  Make however many strings you think looks good.
4. You can hang these strings of crystals from anything.  I used an interesting branch I found.  I thought about spray-painting the branch (You could do silver or any color that matches your theme), but I liked natural better for me.  I hung them by twisting a piece of wire from the hole in the top crystal in the same manner as the connecting wires, but then connected it to the branch.
5. To stand up your masterpiece, you'll need an appropriately sized container.  I found this large vase (about 24" tall) at Michael's. (If you sign up for Michael's weekly email newsletter, you'll get a 40% off coupon every week, comes in very handy!).  I filled my container with sand, but you could also do pebbles or marbles.  You could also do just enough marbles to support the branch, then add water and a fish if you wanted (I've seen that at some weddings).

Now that the wedding is over, I plan to use the strings of crystals to make a lamp, but I haven't gotten that far yet!

A Year-Round Centerpiece

My wedding theme was kind of a woodsy type of feel, so I wanted centerpieces that were both inexpensive and natural.  I came up with the idea of logs that would hold candles, but I had to figure out how to make them stable enough to not fall over if the tables were bumped,  and so that the candles wouldn't be blown out by the wind.  Here are the steps to create these:

1. Find logs (I used fallen branches found on my property.  If you don't have land, make sure you're allowed to take the wood you find).  The logs I used were about 3-4 inches in diameter.
2. Use a chainsaw to cut them to size.  I used 3 sizes for each centerpiece, about 8" high, 6" and 4"
3. Using a drill with a specialty bit (this is where my husband came in handy!) drill 1 3/4" holes in the top of each log to accomodate the candles.  The holes should be deep enough that the wick sits just below the top of the log so the wind can't reach it.
4. Cut a 12"x12" piece of scrap wood or pressboard
5. Using cheap linen cloth, cover the wood, securing on the bottom with a glue gun. (You won't see the bottom, so it doesn't have to be perfect)
6.  Position the logs where you want them on the board.  I had mine just touching, and turned the prettier sides toward the outside.
7. Screw through the base into the logs (this is tricky and is easiest done with two people)
8. Put tealight candles in the holes in the tops of the logs.
9. I surrounded each of mine with 4 small glass votives that I wrapped with wire strung with small green beads.

You don't want to leave these completely unattended as they can catch fire if the wind blows the flame against the wood for too long.  You could spray them with fire retardant spray, or soak the logs in water before attaching them to the boards if you're concerned about this.  I didn't have any problems when I burned them indoors.

After the wedding, I found that I could use these for any season, and decorated them with fall leaves for Thanksgiving and festive ribbon and holly for Christmas.  You could use any color of cloth for the bases, but I found that black is the most versatile.

Fan Programs

When I started planning my wedding, I didn't think I would have programs.  I knew I wanted a short, non-formal ceremony, and I didn't see the point to them.  But then I started thinking about what I could put in them OTHER than ceremony information.  I've seen all sorts of infomation in programs, including:
* Parts of the ceremony
* List of the wedding party (I've also seen random facts about the wedding party, or how they are related to the bride & groom - this is interesting to read while waiting for the ceremony to start)
* List of family members
* List of close people who have passed away that they want to remember/recognize
* Thank you's
* List of vendors
* Trivia Q&A about the Bride & Groom (This was an idea I came up with, I've never seen it done.  I thought it would be cool, but I already had too much going on in mine)

I knew that I wanted to have my program double as a fan, since my wedding was planned for the hottest time of the year, mid-July, outdoors in the full sun.  I also wanted to let people know what the schedule was for the evening, and who was in my wedding party.  We had 250 guests, so not everyone knew who our friends and family were. 

I found instructions for this program on a blog by Aylee.  I decided to do a 5-page program, as outlined:
Page 1: Cover, our names and the date
Page 2 and 3: List of the wedding party and how they're related to us
Page 4: Schedule of events for the ceremony and reception
Page 5: Thank you's to our parents and friends
Note: I think the most you can do is 6 pages and still use a normal size eyelet.  You could tie them together instead, but I think the eyelet makes them look more polished.

I designed it myself and found clipart and fonts on the web that I liked to make it look really custom.  I then printed out the pages on my computer on regular paper, and (since the cardstock wouldn't go through the printer without jamming it) I took them down to the local copy store and had them photocopy them onto the cardstock (Keep in mind that a photocopy isn't QUITE as clean as an original printed copy, but I could barely notice the difference).  I got 4 leaves on each sheet of paper.  I never found an economical way to have them pre-cut (to have a die-cut made was around $200 and then more $ to actually have them cut), so I cut out all 1,250 leaves by hand with scissors with help from my amazing MIL and MOH!  Then I punched an eyelet in the bottom with an eyelet punch, and tied ribbon through. I used small 3/8" eyelets, which come in various colors and shapes - I just used plain round bronze colored ones since they were the least expensive.  But, if I'd had fewer guests I may have gone with fancier flower or heart-shaped eyelets or something. These worked pretty well for creating breeze and guests seemed to like them!  (Note: I also made my centerpieces and menu's, more on those later.)

New Blog

I've always loved throwing parties - when I was a kid I even started a little business planning kids' birthday parties. I'd make pinatas and cakes and favors, plan games, help with invitations, whatever the parents wanted. And of course, I'd be at the party as a day-of helper and coordinator. Little did I know at the time that you can do this as a full-time job and make big bucks for it! I also greatly enjoy crafts - most things I see in the store I know I could make myself for less money. Lastly, my husband and I own a residential remodeling company, so I've effectively tripled the number of projects I can do on my own, since he knows how to build more complicated things that I see!

I have always loved hosting and planning so much that it never seemed stressful to me. Recently, I planned my own wedding and helped with a few friends' weddings, which kicked my creativity into higher gear. So, I've decided to share what information I can on the things I've made and other planning tricks as they come into my head. Hopefully it will be of use to someone out there!