Posts tagged party
A handmade scrap-fabric birthday banner

With so many new additions to our extended family in recent years, birthday season is now pretty much all year round. Except August. I don't think anyone was born in August, thank goodness - it's nice to have a whole month off... But in our immediate family, we have six a year to celebrate - that's six weeks in a year we leave the house decorated with banners, balloons, streamers or whatever else we threw up for said birthday person. We each get a week for the house to look special (or, frankly, until the balloons pop or the streamers dampen in the cool air, stretch and are tripped over. Then it's all over red rover.) To add to the specialness, I've been meaning to make a proper fabric bunting for, oh, the best part of 10 years. I always thought it would nice to have one bunting to suit all family members. Instead, I've spent the last 10 years worth of kids birthdays making paper versions!

Last week I was looking at all the scrap bits of random fabric I have in my fabric box and just started laying them out in a pattern that went together: blues, greens, greys, whites, dusty pinks in stripes, florals, solids and textures. I realised there was a piece of fabric to represent each of us. And some special bits in there too - vintage fabric from my Nana's estate; a dress the girls all wore to death that could not be repaired; one of Steve's old business shirts; new pieces I loved; older faves I've made other clothes out of. Some of the fabric was too small to create proper triangle bunting bits, so I got to cutting them into random strips - some fat, some skinny, some short, some long. I'd seen something similar a few years back at Purl Soho, which I loved and was inspired by. I did back-to-back pieces so it would be the same from either side and stitched it all together, adding ribbon-like lengths to the ends to hang. I hung it up last week for my birthday and haven't taken it down yet. It kind of looks nice just hanging there - not too birthday-ish! I love that it's made with tiny pieces of our family's history, that it's made with basically scrap and useless pieces and that it is the right amount of girlie and masculine to suit the four of us girls as well as Steve and Zak. And also that its rough edges will likely fray over the years, ageing a little more each time it makes an appearance - just like the birthday boy or girl it'll be hung up for when it does.
Immy turns four with a knights and princesses party

This little princess turned four on Sunday! And it's the last year I get away with immy having a family-only party because she has little friends from preschool now (it's so cute to see these little friendships bloom). I asked what she wanted to do for her birthday kind of hoping she would just talk about cake but she wanted a princess party. "A dress-up princess party" to be exact. I may have swore on the inside, but on the outside I of course smiled and said "of course! What about a Knights and princesses party?" thinking we'd do cool jousting on pretend horses and make flower crowns and dance around a maypole. And then as usual I realised I just didn't have the energy to go overboard so I asked her what games she wanted (pass the parcel, piñata, cookie decorating) and we went with that in a princessesy way - crown piñata, star glow wands in pass the parcel, glittery  sugary pink sprinkles and mash mallows for the cupcake decorating (we ended up with cupcakes instead of cookies after I forgot to make the dough in time). And then of course there was cake - a castle as the princess demanded and I have to say it was one of the easiest cakes I've ever decorated!! No cutting involved! My only "effort" was making a some little puppet theatres for the kids to decorate and a brown-paper castle that I taped SO neatly and effectively (!!) to one of those pop-up shelters we had. In my head the castle looked so good and worked perfectly. In reality it didn't want to stay upright, tore easily and had packaging tape all over it. The kids thought it was cool though and honestly that is all that matters right! Imogen had several costume changes throughout the day - her birthday outfit she opened that morning (pictured above), then she quickly changed into an Anna dress when it was gifted to her and again into Elsa - another gift. Then at the end I made her get back into her birthday dress for these pictures and after they were done she was Anna again. Phew!  

I may or may not have stolen roses from the next door neighbour's rose bush that is so tall it towers over the fence and so was teasing me with its perfectly rosy petals calling to be torn up and thrown on the ground - a fitting ground cover for princesses.... 

My sister made these awesome costumes for my nephews - how cute are they?! Zak told me every day for two weeks he didn't want to dress up; he didn't want a costume. The day of the party? "I want to be a knight". Cue much frustrated yelling. I told him to make a sword. He needed my help. I spared him about five minutes to glue it together. He wore a Socceroos champions jersey and carried his sword for exactly 35 seconds. Glad I didn't make that costume!

Perhaps not so princessesy was the whacking of a piñata - I've decided it's easier to just cover the sides of piñatas with paper or thin cardboard rather than painstakingly fringe up tissue paper!!! They still get cracked open just fine and you can go into more detail with the design (if you really wanted). This time I covered the sides with white paper then cut out the silver crown, glued it on and had the girls glue the cut-outs and sprinkle glitter on. It was s little messy when it was hit but I didn't hear anyone complain of glitter in the eye! We did have an egg on the head though when my 2-year-old nephew walked up as Zak leant back to whack it and instead whacked Ben in the head. Eek. Bad timing - and amazingly, our first piñata accident (there have been A LOT of pinatas in the eight years I've been throwing kids parties).

THE CAKE! Sponge cake (two layers from Woollies) with jam rolls for the turrets slathered in vanilla buttercream and topped with mini waffle cones also covered in buttercream and sprinkled with pink sugar glitter (no idea what it's called). The bamboo skewers through the tops of the cones keep it altogether and are topped off with a little tape cut into the shape of a flag. Mini marshmallows on the edges create a kind of "stone edge" effect and the parapet (YES I googled castle parts to work out what it's called). And a squirt of chocolate-fudge-in-a-tube made a wonky door. She loved it. 

In our very authentic medieval castle - with parapets - we played pass the parcel, musical chairs and decorated and played with mini puppet theatres I made out of toilet rolls.

They were pretty easy - cut a little window using a scalpel and hot-glue-gun on a little hat for the Rapunzel tower. Cut a parapet around the top of the toilet roll and a drawbridge at the bottom for the castle. Draw up a little knight and/or princess on cardboard, cut and stick to a bamboo skewer and have the kids decorate them. The just stuck on some little flowers and drew on vines and bricks or just coloured in. They can then use them as a puppet and theatre in one.

Cupcake decorating is messy but a good one for kids to do. It keeps them busy and helps you out! You don't need to worry about how they look! One less job! Here is Layla's efforts. Yes, a lot of sugar was consumed...

What is a party without balloons? I made a simple balloon garland for the inside decorations which at the end of the day became the number-one-thing-to-play-with despite all her presents. She grabbed the garland, knotted it up and ran around the yard again, again and again. Good way to wear her out!

Her request for the morning was animal balloons like I did for Layla last year. But I had to change it up a bit so made her a princess, a heart and a number 4. She was thrilled.

And so another party done! Another child is another year older. And I have yet another one growing swiftly and celebrating her birthday next week - Annika is turning ONE! Already! It's really starting to freak me out how quickly birthdays roll around in this place! 
Crafting: stencilled gold leaf and glitter balloons

Erm, Happy New Year! It's probably time I got Christmas crafts off the front page, right? So lets decorate balloons! Valentine's Day has passed, but these are an any-occasion craft and seeing as we're entering one of my family's major party seasons (March to July we pretty much have a birthday a week), I thought these gold-leaf pretties might work well at my two littlest girls birthday parties - one of whom is four in a few weeks and the other who will be celebrating her very first birthday at the end of March! Already! 

Customise as you see fit - a number or initial for the birthday girl or boy, spots, stripes or other patterns for other occasions. Knock yourself out! We chose hearts for Valentine's Day, because what else would you do on a holiday of the heart?! Here's how to DIY...

Your toolkit:
Balloons - we chose a few colours and had the helium added at the party shop. In my head the purple was navy but they didn't have any (how dare they ruin my plans).
Contact paper - the thinner the better. We used clear
Gold Leaf
Sizing (glue for gold leaf. I've used regular glue with gold leaf before and it's worked fine, but I'm not sure how it would go on the balloon.)

How to:
1. Cut the stencil out of the contact paper - I cut a large heart for the clear balloon and lots of smaller hearts for the white one. Cut around the shape so you don't have a lot of excess trim - the less sticking to the balloon, the better.

2. For the glitter hearts, remove the backing and stick randomly over the balloon. For the larger heart, it's a bit trickier as the balloon is round so the contact paper won't mould to it. So, start at the bottom point and gently stick it to the balloon from the bottom up. Try and move your way up evenly on both sides. As you get to the top, you'll realise you have too much contact paper and it will bubble, so keep smoothing it out and push the "bubble" towards the middle and then pinch it at the top and centre of the heart (see second image below). It will create an even heart but slightly narrower than what you cut.

3. Paint on your sizing, being careful not to go beyond your contact paper stencil's border - just a light coat is all you need. If you're using glitter, you can sprinkle on immediately while the glue is wet. If you're using gold leaf, wait a few minutes until it is tacky before applying. Too wet and the gold leaf will just slip off the balloon. Once tacky, gently smooth over your gold leaf. You may need more than one sheet, just apply all over - it will only stick to the sizing. Smooth out any bumps and leave to dry for a few minutes.

4. Once dry, use your finger or a soft brush to brush away any excess gold leaf. I just rubbed the gold leaf all over - especially around the edge of the stencil - with my fingers. Do it bit by bit - don't rush the stencil removal as you can pop the balloon! Do it slowly and pull away from the gold leaf, not into it as it may remove some of the leaf from the heart. You can also remove the stencil before you apply the gold leaf - I tried both and they both worked. For the glitter hearts, blow or shake off excess glitter and remove the stencils, again going slowly!

5. All done! If you want a simple balloon topper too, we did this for Steve's birthday balloons: cut three different sized hearts from glitter paper and cut two slits in each heart. Then simply slide them over the string and up to the balloon - biggest to littlest.

Immy and I made up a bunch of these balloons on Valentine's Day and she decided to part with one for her little friend Kai. So we got in the car with matching blue (for him) and clear (for her) heart balloons and POP! Kai's busted. So she grabbed another one and off we went (below). When she finally got to hand it over, I was just about to say "you might want to tie it to your wrist" and .... he let it go! And boy, did it go! It was halfway to heaven in .45 seconds. That helium is fast-flying stuff! He didn't mean to and was sad to watch it fly away, but it was a sweet moment nonetheless! 

And Valentine's Day or not, those girls of mine were totally obsessed with their balloons - from painting the glue and sprinkling the glitter to tying them to anything and everything and pretending to float away with them, they utilised a good majority of the 24 hours or so the helium lasted!

PS: The purple balloon was just randomly painted with sizing at the base of the balloon and then the gold leaf applied to the brushstroke, which gives it that nice painted effect.
immy's 3rd birthday

My sweet little baby girl has turned three. And is no longer a baby - she is now a "big little girl" and "Pop is a tiny baby, not me." Pop, of course, is my fourth child due... tomorrow! (Most likely today if you're reading this on Friday). Immy's birthday was on Saturday and being sooooo close to the end of an exhausting pregnancy, I did debate throwing some candles on a ice cream cake and calling it a day. But then I felt bad and decided Immy needed to have a little more fanfare - so I kept it sweet and simple: family only, no theme, easy decor I could make while resting my elephant feet (they're swollen and dry and awful and I can't reach them to do anything about it), and popular activities I didn't have to supervise or be involved in. 

My lovely mother-in-law took care of all the food, so all I did was wriggle one tenth of a massive bowl of butter cream I made around a double sponge cake, shoved some sprinkles on top and stuck in way too many candles. Everyone had a great day and Immy was thrilled. Here's what we did...

Tent fun: I put my cranky pants foot down for presents this year and sent everyone a message demanding they steer clear of soft toys, plastic, big or noisy things. I gave them a few suggestions that would keep with our new "careful purchasing" rule where we have to be mindful about what we are bringing into our house - nothing too big, badly made or unnecessary. So sticking to that theme, I bought her a book, a pair of sunglasses, some Duplo to add her very-much loved collection and made her a tent. I used these instructions as a guide but cheated with the sewing as I did it late the night before her birthday and just wanted something for her to have in the morning. I also think it needs a few extra bits of dowel on the bottom connecting the two A-frame parts, but that again is for another day. So far, it's been a big hit with everyone.

Crown decorating: I almost can't recall a party where we didn't have crown or hat decorating - it's always so popular and sooo easy to do. You can buy premade strips of paper crowns from craft stores or you could do it even cheaper and buy a piece of white cardboard and just cut it into strips, then cut a zig zag down the centre of each strip creating two crowns. This is all I do! Then I stick a strip of double-sided tape all the way along the bottom and lay out a table of crafty stuff - feathers, glitter, paper dots, diamante stickers - and let them at it. I also put out a watercolour set this time and they enjoyed the easy painting too. Then you wrap the hat around their head and use a piece of double-sided tape at the end to stick it together to fit their head.

Treasure hunt: Bless his stinky little boy socks... Zak asked me what games we were having at the party about 10 minutes before people started arriving. I said "um, none". He looked at my like I had three heads and declared HE would make up a treasure hunt for everyone and would look after everything. So he did. He wrote out some clues (they even rhymed! "To find clue number 4, you have to do through a door!" "Four is not enough, you need to find a chair with lots of stuff!" and the kids went looking for them and found the treasure chest filled with extra lollies that didn't fit into the balloon pinata. He's my party planner in training.

Jelly playdough: This is the yummiest smelling thing - made with jelly crystals it's also super-soft and nice to play with. Everyone loves playdough so this went down well with them all. You can find the recipe here.

Shady picnic spot: Umbrellas and tents went up, pouffes and cushions came outside and tea sets and real party food ended up being scattered throughout the yard as everyone pulled up a pew in the shady spot. Casual and simple is always good!

Giant balloon pinata: Normally, I will make a pinata of some kind. But there are other times when I just use balloons - mystery balloons are fun and messy (several large balloons filled with cream, confetti, lollies, silly string, goo, water); or there was the balloon darts of several parties where each child gets to throw a dart at a board of lolly-filled balloons and grab the contents once it pops. Then there was this year's cheat: one large balloon, lots of lollies inside, one birthday girl and one dart. We gathered the kids around, Immy popped the balloon and the kids scattered to find their lollies. The coloured balloon banner above the pinata was meant to be a giant number 3 made of balloons, but that was a major fail so we just stuck to a balloon garland!

Ruffle cake: The birthday girl loves sprinkles and icing so I grabbed a Coles double sponge cake and smothered it in buttercream. A few too many candles nearly scorched her little face, but she was chuffed with the pink candles. Cake stand from Emerald + Ella.
Tissue paper tassel garland: Instantly makes a party place seem prettier and special. Easy to do and very effective (though likely done to death now!) - I followed these instructions.

Magazine cut-out banner: I dared to part with several pages from my fave magazines for this - but most of the pages were double-sided ads so all is ok. I just cut the letters out and taped them to the wall with washi tape on the underside.

Bouquet of lollipop bonbonnaire: I was even lazy with gift bags this time - Kmart lollipops were dressed up with a bit of twine and a watercolour circle thank you card. They doubled as faux-flower decor after I placed them in a jar on the sideboard! Am sure the parents LOVED my sugary parting gift :)

 And finally, have I mentioned on here that my two sisters AND my sister-in-law are all pregnant? My sisters and I like to do belly progress pics when we get together - I'm on the right, due tomorrow with my fourth child (a girl); Gretchen is in the centre, due six weeks after me with her second child (a surprise); Kristie is due six weeks after Gretchen with her third child (a boy). And Cass, my sister-in-law (not pictured as she was working) is due six weeks after Kristie with her first child (a girl). Can you believe the timing?!?!?! Next time we're all together my baby will be on the outside!

And one more picture of the birthday girl. Because she is just so cute. And funny. And sweet. And crazy. And curly. And clever. And loud. And THREE. Already!

FYI: If you follow my Facebook or Instagram you'd no-doubt have already seen a lot of similar pics. If you're curious about previous parties, you can check out my hashtag #happyhomeparty to see invites, pinatas, decor, food and ideas that I may not have previously blogged before. 

And also... A HUGE thank you to everyone's comments on the blog/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram about my previous post. It is SO nice knowing I'm not the only one feeling overwhelmed. Or the only one who yells at her kids. Or who freaks out about childbirth at the last minute. Or... everything else. I loved hearing your own confessions and stories and I have no doubt I'll have some more to share once this baby makes an appearance and life changes for us again! Again, a million thank yous xxx

{All images by Belinda Graham for The Happy Home}

zak's crazy star wars(ish) birthday party
On Saturday, my little boy turned 7. SEVEN. How do I have a seven year old? And a five-and-a-half year old? And an almost-three year old and ohmygod soon another newborn (WHAT am I thinking?! I can't even blame it all on a surprise because we WANTED four. But now that we're almost here... eek!)

Anyway, my little Star Wars-OBSESSED boy turned seven and wanted a Star Wars party. I wasn't really keen on a theme - is he too old now? Don't kids that age just want to run around and play fights and be crazy? So those two ideas collided immediately and I decided I'd do the latter with a bit of a minor Star Wars twist to it. Why the heck not! Here's what we did - glamour and Pinterest-style perfect photo opportunities did NOT feature at this party. Fun, mess and noise did.

Inspired by Brooke from Inchmark's Valentines a few years back, these invites were literally created in half an hour before I had to pick Zak up from school. Thank you to my printer for running out of ink and printing sooo incredibly badly. There was a hand-written message on the backs of all invites: sorry for the incredibly late notice (less than a week) and for the incredibly bad print quality. As usual, though, the kids just loved the fact they had a sherbet stick light sabre stuck on a parrty invite and couldn't care less about the fact they font was splotchy and not all black. GOSH they're easy to please!

ACTIVITY 1: Jedi Training Camp

So we started with Jedi Training Camp - a bit of an obstacle course with all those things little boys (and girls) like to do - whack each other, jump, shoot things and get wet and messy (if they choose to). We recently rescued a bunch of tyres from our local waterway - not just because we're nice citizens, but because we decided to use them to grow potatoes (clearly we haven't started yet). So they kicked off the course nicely - the kids had to run through them army-style...

 ...Next up was light sabre training - two jedis-in-training whacking each other with half a pool noodle "light sabre". Well actually the rules were they could only hit the noodle - not each other. Aside from a few hiccups and one or two deliberate body smack-downs, they stuck to this rule and had a ball. The first to fall off the balance beam or lose their weapon had to move on to the next activity...

 ...Shooting the bad guys! Of COURSE. I am pretty sure this was everyone's favourite. I wish I had splurged on more cans of that crazy string so they could have just had a crazy string fight - maybe if there had been half the amount of children (we had around 25!). My kids aren't allowed to play with guns (toy ones, obviously. Real ones? No worries - KIDDING). I hate them and they are banned. So what do I do? Why I go and buy them crazy string guns and SPRAYPAINT THEM BLACK SO THEY LOOK LIKE PROPER GUNS so they can shoot bad guys. But really, there is no other chance for them to play with the things so they might as well make the most of it. What were the bad guys? Well they used to look like this...

I drew them (copied from Google - thanks Google) with a black pen and did some incredibly juvenile colouring in with said pen and a couple of coloured pencils. I also attempted Yoda who turned out a little special and probably more like a gremlin, but they got the gist. So there were two goodies and three baddies on cardboard and stuck on metal poles in the ground. Our mini jedis didn't care too much about Yoda or R2D2's goodness - they pretty much just shot them all, though Darth Vader and Darth Maul did cop a LOT of crazy coloured string. I was slightly sad my pictures were ruined - I quite like the stormtrooper - he'd look pretty cool on Zak's bedroom wall whenever we get to do his room. Might be a repeat project... 

Jedi Zak is on a mission... 
Last up in the obstacle course was the Dagobah Swamp - a small kiddie pool filled with Gelli Baff and a couple of pavers as stepping stones. They had to not fall in the slime - that came later.... I originally wanted them to swing over this pool on a rope swing but seeing as the only place we could hang a rope was on the edge of our pergola, it wasn't safe enough as the pool would be half on concrete - so a no go. This worked out better, apparently, as Luke Skywalker did walk through stepping stones in the swamp - Steve told me so. (I wouldn't know. I always fall asleep in Star Wars. I only recall Han Solo being put in that freezie thing - I thought they snapped his neck.)

ACTIVITY 2: Alderaan Asteroid Field 
So after the kids get to whack each other (oh wait, the noodle) and then shoot the bad guys, what is next? Why a food fight, of course. I spent a couple of hours making a whole bunch of these marshmallow poppers. Originally I was thinking some kind of sling shot, but found these on Pinterest. They're paper cups (doubled up for each popper) with the bottoms cut off and taped with masking tape. Then a balloon is tied at the bottom and the tip cut off. It's then stretched over the opening and the kids place a marshmallow into the cup, pull the knot, aim and let it go! And do they go! I wouldn't put anything other than a marshmallow into it though! Hello blindness....
 They LOVED this. I was worried about the sticky mess that would be my grass afterwards but I only picked up about 10 marshmallows all up. I think Immy did a great job of hoovering in the middle of the battle - and most of the kids just picked them up and ate them as well. They had an absolute ball.

Ready. Aim. FIRE!

ACTIVITY 3: Death Star Planet Destruction Zone 
Instead of a pinata this year, we did the same as we did at Zak's family party last year - lolly-filled balloons the kids have to throw a dart at to pop. This was the talk of Zak's class before the party had even begun, apparently, after Zak mentioned it in news and all the kids eagerly awaiting invites so they could pop a balloon with a dart (how novel! bless them.) 

So they all lined up with their black and white striped paper bags (cleverly lined up against the food table so they could keep themselves amused stuffing faces rather than being bored in a line) and took turns throwing the dart (heavily supervised by my brother-in-law - a teacher at the kids school, so no one dared do the wrong thing!). They WERE the death star and got to destroy a "planet" by popping a balloon. 

So the balloon popped, the lollies fell to the ground, they picked them up and yay! Done. No fighting over who got more lollies from the pinata and no painful "only one hit and not too hard because everyone needs to have a turn" on repeat - also a downfall of pinatas.

ACTIVITY 4: Gungan Underwater World
I have no picture of this because I was the entertainment here. I made up a batch of great bubble mix and whipped up some string and skewer wands and created some giant bubbles which the kids ooohed and ahhed over and then had fun chasing and popping. FINALLY a mixture that actually works and I didn't even have to use Joy liquid soap (which all the good recipes call for).

ACTIVITY 5: Dagobah Swamp Lucky Dip
As thank you gifts for the kids, I grabbed a bunch of fun and super-cheap gifts- moustache and skeleton pencil ends, tiny water pistols, whoopie cushions and playdough. One of each of these things was paired with a punch balloon and placed inside a zip-lock bag. They were then thrown into the slime pool and the kids had to grab them out of the slime. 

In my head, they had to really swish around in there and get dirty finding a packet. In reality, the slime - although blue - was a very, very translucent blue and the bags floated, so not quite the cool lucky dip I envisioned. But that did not stop them from having fun - some still jumped in!

 And then, with cake done and all the planned activities over, out came the water guns. They spent the next half an hour or so just getting soaked, jumping in the slime pool and enjoying more noodle light sabre fights around the yard. It was incredibly loud, crazy and messy but I absolutely LOVED seeing all these little kids enjoying being little kids and doing all those things they're not really allowed to do at home. They loved it. Zak had a few moments of not loving it (he gets a bit overwhelmed with so many people around), but still mentioned later his favourite part was the obstacle course (and not all the Star Wars Lego he got as presents, which I was happy about!) And apparently, it was a hit with other kids too - Zak wasn't the only one to talk about it at news on Monday, which amused me!

So I have learned - as I do every party - that kids honestly don't give two hoots about what a party place looks like. What decorations are strung up. If your food matches the theme exactly. Or if there is a candy buffet. I did none of these things, plus my house was a tip as we had bathroom stuff everywhere for our renovation, a room full of sawdust from floor sanding that I didn't bother cleaning up (doors are there for a reason) AND there had been major storms the night before so everything was wet and gross. But they didn't care one bit! As you can see, below. I am sooooo grateful to the weather gods for not raining on the day - it was meant to, but the rain stayed away until nightfall. Phew!

And so that is another party done! Yay!

{All pictures by Belinda Graham for The Happy Home}