Category Archives: EVENT PLANNING – Creative Party Ideas

A Homespun Labor Day Carnival

It’s 7:00a.m., Labor Day morning, and the kids come running downstairs excited for the holiday. Now, what I would find exciting is being able to sleep in on such a holiday. But from what I hear, that doesn’t come until the kids are much older. The questions abound, “What even is Labor Day, mommy?” “How are we going to celebrate it, Mommy?” Mustering up all of my energy having just been woken up I respond, “Labor Day celebrates people who work and it gives them the day off.” “Oh, like Daddy,” responds my youngest. And here we go again. “Well, Mommy works, too, honey,” I say with a forced smile on my face. “You do?” they all chime in with disbelief. “Doing laundry, and making meals, and cleaning up after the three of you, isn’t exactly playtime, now is it, little ones,” I say in a voice that sounds unusually like Johnny Dep’s psychologically depraved depiction of Willy Wonka. Now realization shows on their face. They’ve heard this before and it’s a road they are smart enough to know they don’t want to travel down again, so they quickly move onto their second question. “So, what are we going to do?” “Well, if we had a house in the Hamptons, I guess we would be celebrating it with a barbeque on the beach and watching the fireworks, but since this is not the case, I guess I’ll come up with something else.” As the kids get older, every holiday is a crapshoot. You never know what’s in vogue now until it comes upon you. Who knew this year would bring about such a keen interest in celebrating Labor Day. God knows what next year’s Groundhog Day may bring.

But, not wanting to disappoint my children, I climb out of bed and quickly get to work. And as always, I’m a theme thinker. Come up with a theme and everything else will fall into place. What can I pull together in a few hours that will be deemed big enough to celebrate the fact that daddy has off from work. I don’t remember Labor Day being any big deal when I schlepped into the city, working long days only to come home to crying babies – but I digress…

Let’s get back to the first step:  THEME. O.K. Labor Day makes you think of hometowns and parades, which makes you think of community get-togethers and American symbols like Apple Pie. When I think about Apple Pie and childhood fun, I think of pie-eating contests. Where can you find a pie-eating contest? At a carnival. Bingo. I have my theme. Now everything falls into place.

The next step is ACTIVITIES. I start to make a list of all the activities I can imagine at a carnival while I’m thinking of the items we have around the house that we can utilize for these activities.So, I know we have miniature golf, I know we have horse-shoes and lawn darts, I know we have ladder-ball. Then I hunt around in the basement, garage and playroom for items that can generate ideas for additional activities. I find Toss Across.  I find a magnetic fishing game.  A life-size, card-board, character cut-out for photo ops. I add those to the list of activities. Then I come across water balloons. What could we do with that. I guess in celebration of the fact that daddy “works” and mommy doesn’t, we could blindfold daddy and let the kids throw water balloons at him. That makes me smile. This is getting fun.

Now, I move onto AMBIANCE. What else could make this feel like a real carnival. Face painting. Tattoos.  A kissing booth. Tickets. Prizes.  I make a list of things to quickly run out and buy at the party store down the street. And I always like to have theme music for my parties. So, I download Carnival music onto my iPod. You also can’t forget thematic food. Ice Cream. Popcorn. Hot Dogs.

Once I have the party plan worked out, now it’s time to get the kids involved. I go over the plan with them and they all choose activities they want to help with. My daughter wants to do the face painting, as she is the artist in the family. My youngest son wants to be in charge of handing out the ice cream – which I didn’t realize, and good thing he pointed it out to me, would require us to add a mustache to the list of items to purchase, as ice cream vendors at carnivals always have mustaches, apparently. And my eldest son would run the kissing booth, but he would be allowed to determine if he wanted to give out a kiss or a high-five depending on who the ticket holder was, his mommy or his brother for example.  He was also very keen on helping with the water balloons to throw at daddy. But he smartly thought it best for us to keep that activity a surprise until it was time for it to happen. I love surprises.

We did our shopping, collected all of our items and then set up the activities around the back yard. With mustaches on, tickets in hand, and the sound of the carnival organ playing loudly on the sound system, our Homespun Labor Day Carnival was about to begin. The kids had a great time. They said it felt just like a real carnival. And the water balloon surprise activity was a big hit. The kids and I could have done that one all day. Luckily, daddy was a good sport about it.

You can turn any holiday into a last minute party. All you need is a theme, some imagination, and kids who just want to have fun.

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House Party – the Real Housewive’s way

When NBC started airing the “Real Housewives” reruns in the afternoon, right during the time I’m usually at the gym looking for something to watch – I got hooked. Not because of the drama. Not because of the entertainment value. But for two reasons only. One, being a housewife myself, I love to watch a show that denotes a “real housewife” whose important duties have nothing to do with cooking, cleaning, or rearing children. How great is that? And my second reason is for the fabulous parties they throw. Which brings me to today’s blog.

In October of last year we moved into a new house. Just about nine months later, we have finally sold our old house. In this housing market, no longer having to carry two houses, well, that calls for a party. And not just any party. I want to throw a party fit for a “Real Housewife”.  So, I am going to bring you on that journey with me.

Step One: The Germination Phase.

The seed must be planted from which the party blooms. The seed can be a theme, a venue, or it can be the entertainment. For me, I found my seed when I went into the city to see the Black Eyed Peas perform a benefit concert in Central Park. The concert was canceled due to weather conditions, so I found myself at the Prohibition Bar on Columbus Ave. The bar band consisted of two brothers, one on the electric guitar and one playing a drum-like box.  They were so good, so versatile, so charming, as they tried to fake a few Black Eyed Peas songs just so we didn’t go home empty handed. I had found my seed. A hip, eclectic duo direct from a NYC club – yeah, I can build a party around that.

The most important thing during the germination phase, in order to make your party unique, is to think outside the box and not be afraid to think big. When I saw The Doyle Brothers play, they had just announced that they had won a contest to go to England to perform in a concert as the opening act for Sir Paul McCartney. Others may have shied away from asking them to then come out to “the country” and play at a house party, but I remembered someone once told me that it never hurts to ask (which it actually does, by the way, when the response is no), but luckily, they said “yes”!

Step Two: The Nurturing Phase. I had the entertainment, now I had to supply all the things necessary for the party to grow. To do this, I looked at 3 things: Gregarious Guests,  Palate Pleasers, and Amazing Ambience.

Gregarious Guests were easy. I had two towns of people to pick from. I had a lot of friends from my old town that I knew would come just because the invitation said “party” on it. And they did not disappoint, turning beer bottle bands into fashionable bracelets for themselves. My new town was a little bit more difficult. I didn’t know a lot of my new neighbors yet. So, I turned to one of the more popular neighbors on the block and asked her for a list of people she deemed fun enough for me to invite to my party. She really helped me out, though she drew the line at my recon mission of  trying to obtain a list of  potential “the band is too loud” 9-1-1 callers to invite as a preemptory strike.

Palate Pleasers came in the form of a professional catering service, as I have never pretended in any way that I know how to function in what I believe some people call a kitchen – for me it’s a place to store and warm up pre-cooked meals. Two things to remember when it comes to caterers: use one that a friend recommends and has used before and has been happy with (limits your worries), and secondly, make sure that the food selections you make all can be eaten delicately without ruining your lipstick, getting in your teeth, or dripping on your outfit.  Make sure those “Pleasures” stay in the middle range of your palate – don’t go too downtown with pigs in a blanket, nor too uptown with truffles. You don’t want food that would be served at a bad wedding, nor food that your guests can’t pronounce or identify.

That just leaves me with Amazing Ambience. Seems simple enough, I already had the music so, just turn down the lights. But alas, if only it were that easy. A party is nothing without lights, color, or the combination: colored lighting.  Somehow I needed to turn my country colonial home into a New York City nightclub. I began to think I had gone slightly overboard with this idea as I forced my sister to climb on the roof of our house to change out our flood lights to blue. I would have sent my husband up there, but our extension ladder had been purchased at a tag sale and was not quite stable. As close as I am to my sister, if the ladder were to give way, leaving my children without an aunt was slightly preferable over leaving them without a father. Luckily, with a few minor scares, she was able to revamp the lighting and climb down safely, all the while vowing never to offer her assistance in my “over-the-top”, “ridiculous party ideas”, again. Though I’m not really sure where she was coming from with that. I did get my husband up on a slightly smaller ladder, in order to change out all

our lights to pink in our twenty-foot, living-room ceiling. I then had a great idea to do colored uplighting under glass tables to give a real nightclub feel. Since it  was an indoor/outdoor summer party, I had our outdoor glass dining table aglow in a soft blue hue. I figured we would  have our stationary hors d’oeuvres set out there in the middle of the party. Note to self: when you have a lighted table with food on it, at night, the bugs that it attracts is horrifying, So, that particular, incredibly awesome idea, turned into an empty table glowing in the middle of our backyard. But still, a nice affect….

And because my background is in marketing and putting together pretty packaging, the devil is definitely in the details. A signature drink was a must and it had to coordinate with the overall ambience. So, it was light pink with glowing, light-up mixing sticks.

Step Three: The Bloom. Then you just have to let things unfold, and flourish under the weeks and weeks of planning that you put into an evening that lasts just four hours. Of course, it turned out we had a heat wave that day so everyone was dripping with sweat, and I forgot that when you’re the hostess, you don’t actually hear the music that the band is playing, or get to taste much of the food, or remember to take pictures of the actual event, because you’re making sure everyone else is enjoying themselves. Just all of a sudden, the party is over.  So, was it a party that rivaled the soirees of the Real Housewives? I’m not sure about that, but it was definitely a night to be remembered, that is, if I could remember all of it…

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Sure, Deck the Halls, But Why Stop There?

It’s the end of January, so hopefully you’ve all put your holiday decorations back in the attic. Now that’s done, I like to reflect back on how I thought the whole holiday vibe went. And I firmly believe much of the holiday spirit comes from the atmosphere you are immersed in. So, I use the holidays as another time when I can put my latent marketing and packaging skills to good use. It all started out one year with “Glitter Santa”. When I found him standing center-aisle, prominently displayed at Pier One, I knew he would be my muse for many Christmases to come.  From there I moved onto little glitter trees and this year, you can imagine my excitement to add “Glitter Reindeer” to the decor.

Every year, when upon reflection I don’t think that Christmas felt quite Christmasy enough, I think to myself, if only the decor had been a tad more festive, that would have done the trick. Decorating for Christmas has gone from a single tree with a few special ornaments picked up throughout the year, to three decorated trees all with their own color theme. During the holidays, you can’t walk through the main floor of our house without encountering a room decorated to the hilt. I almost feel like if we had little Pier One shopping baskets at the front door, guests would feel like they had just walked into a store franchise.

First we have the three trees: Family Room, Dining Room, and Living Room.

 Then we have the rest of the wonderland.

Why decorate every room? My feeling is, you never know when you might “need a little Christmas, right this very minute”.  By the way, I also had the player piano filling the air with constant Christmas Carols, had my youngest son prance around in reindeer antlers and a flashing red nose during a chorus of Rudolph, made up my own Christmas Charades game, and created my own signature holiday drink.

There may have been no snow this year. But when my family was over on Christmas Day, you better believe they weren’t allowed to leave until they would admit that the joy of the season had fully consumed them. So, did I finally achieve the ultimate height of holiday spirit? I would have to say I was pretty close this year, even Santa would have to be impressed, but I’m not going to rule out possibly adding to the Christmas madness…you never know what Pier One might add to their “glitter” inventory next year.

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