Scavenger Hunt

23 06 2011

We’re very into scavenger hunts around here. In the car, the house or the yard. With picture clues or words. Lists of items to find, clues that take you from room to room or simply a hide and seek affair. The kids just can’t seem to get enough of them. So when thinking of what games the kids might enjoy at Eleanor’s birthday party, it didn’t take me long to land on a scavenger hunt. And since both of the crafts and all of the decorations were flower related, it was time to do something with butterflies.

I made these magnets using wood circles, photos, modge podge, dimensional glaze, super glue and, of course, magnets. The wood circles were cut from branches in our backyard. Each one sanded down smooth while I dreamed of a hundred other projects I could use them for.

I even got a little help. This is her best “why are you taking a picture of me” face while wearing a nightgown over her other jammies and a matching headband to boot.

Although I have plenty of my own pics of various butterfly stages, I decided to go with the classic monarch. And since I only had a shot of the caterpillar stage, I went looking on flickr for the rest. I was fortunate to find images which allow for personal use. The egg shot is from kiwinz and the butterfly is from grandma sandy+chuck. I’d tell you the chrysalis shot only I lost the link. Sorry chrysalis photographer! But I can say that I really appreciate their willingness to share and plan to look at creative commons licenses for some of my photos.

I printed the pics on plain paper and affixed them to the discs with modge podge. After they dried I added a layer of dimensional glaze. Awesome stuff, I tell ya. It adds a nice think resin like coating. The right side of this pic is before adding the glaze, the left after. It goes on sort of milky but dries clear after a day or two as you can sort of see in the top photo. Hard to take a pic of, but I think you get the idea. The last piece of the pie was to glue the magnets on the backs. I used your regular ol’ black circle magnets but would really love to research stronger magnets for future projects. I think the patience needed for this projects was the hardest part. All that waiting for things to dry drove me nuts. I so wanted to touch them. And well, I did. Once. Had to re-do that one.

I made a complete set of 4 for each child attending the party. Fortunately, the rain eased up so we could do the scavenger hunt outside. We bundled everyone up, headed to the backyard and had a brief discussion on the 4 stages of a butterflies life cycle. Most of the kids were 3 or 4 years old after all. They were jumping up and down to tell me the answers. We then sent them into the yard to find one of each magnet. Once they found their 4, I sent them back to help their friends.

The magnets were theirs to keep but I felt a reward for finding all 4 was still needed. And what did they get? A flower lollipop of course!

And could I stop at just one flower per kid? Oh, no. Not me. I had to make a whole basket full.

Super easy to make while watching tv after the kids go to bed, but not so easy to make when they’re around. “I want root beer flavor” “I want cotton candy!” “Will you write my name on this one?” Ugh – go away.

I used left over crepe paper streamers from a past birthday party, winding around the sucker while occasionally folding in a bit at the bottom. Then I secured them with some floral tape, which I continued all the way down the stem. It took a couple practice goes, but I eventually got the knack of it.

After each child picked out theirs (and immediately tore off the crepe paper) I divvied out most of the rest into the thank you bags.

I really had fun creating the magnets and lollipop flowers and the kids really seemed to enjoy it all too. This was the one project I did more than a day in advance. And good thing too, with all that drying time!

Birthday Outfit

16 06 2011

Call me crazy. It’s ok, I can take it. Really I can. It’s because I know it to be true.

I literally made this outfit the morning before Eleanor’s birthday party. I know! I can hardly believe it myself.

The t-shirt was purchased a few weeks beforehand with a birthday shirt in mind, but as usual I didn’t get around to it. I had pretty much given up the idea when I found myself ahead of schedule on the day of the party. Well, not really ahead of schedule, but all required projects were completed and I had moved on to the wish list of other projects I wanted to do but weren’t really necessary.

If my parents hadn’t been there helping out I know for certain it wouldn’t have happened. But as it was, my mom had just finished up the garland and I was feeling a little jealous that she got to sew something. So using some of the left over fabric and some fusible interfacing I had on hand, I set to work. Steve helped out by drawing the 4 and the circles. The shapes were simply sewn on with a zigzag stitch. The quality isn’t that of an heirloom but it will certainly work for the summer and has lasted through several washings already.

As for the skirt, I made it from an old t-shirt and some even older 3/4″ elastic. I cut the bottom of the t-shirt off to the length of the skirt plus an inch. Then I used spray starch to help stabilize and ironed a fold to make the casing. I’m proud to say I remembered to sew on the applique circles prior to adding the elastic. However, please don’t magnify the pictures or you’ll see all my wonky stitching. It’s my 1st applique after all.

I can assure you I breathed a sigh of relief when Eleanor decided she was willing to wear it. Often it takes her weeks to warm up to the items I make her, but it was only minutes this time. Phew. She added knee highs to the outfit and was quite pleased that there were 4 circles to match her age.

Flower Necklaces

15 06 2011

Even though there were boys invited to the party I decided they were still young enough for flower necklaces. This was originally going to be a back up project just in case. However, it came together quickly and the end result so fun I decided it was no longer a back up and pulled it out mid party.

I put together the fixings while having a cup of tea and chatting with my mother. In other words, not much thought or time was required. Here’s what we used:

  • A selection of dark colored 1″ buttons from the stash
  • Hemp cording cut to sections 30-36″ long
  • Blunt tip darning needles
  • 2.5″ felt circles of various colors
  • 1.75″ felt circles of various colors
  • 3.5″ green felt leaves
The size of the felt pieces is approximate as each was hand cut, purposefully not being a perfectionist about it. It’s not worth the time to nicely draw out each shape plus the wonkiness adds to the charm. A snip was precut in the center of each circle and toward one end of each leaf.

One nice thing about the hemp cording is that it has enough stiffness that the kids could weave it through the buttons without use of skinny pokey needles. (It’s great for all sorts of lacing projects because of this.) I had the kids pick 1 item from each bowl and then demonstrated for them how to lace the button, thread the needle with both ends of the cord and stack the felt pieces to form the flower. When they were done, I tied a knot and they happily slipped their creations on.

Most of the kids needed help threading the needles but that was expected. It was a super quick project, only taking about 15 minutes tops but the kids were quite into it and really liked their necklaces. If I were to do it again I’d make a couple changes. One would be to provide enough needles for all the kids, taking turns is no fun after all. Also, I would try smaller or lighter weight buttons. Due to the heft of these 1″ oldies the flowers would some times droop downward. Although the kids didn’t seem to notice one bit.

Painting Pots

13 06 2011

As soon as the garden party theme was settle on I knew I wanted the kids to paint pots. Probably because all I can think about in May is planting things. And what an easy project!

The table was set with brushes, bowls of water and a few plates of paint. Oh, and newspaper. Lots of newspaper. I had picked up 6 acrylic paints making sure to include pink and purple for the birthday girl but also some blue and green for the boy guests. We wrote each child’s name on the bottom of the pots with a terra cotta marker although I bet a sharpie would have worked just fine. We also set out a stack of old t-shirts to cover all the pretty party clothes.

The kids went in shifts. Unintentionally girls and then boys. As the boys weren’t very interested at first, but they came around on their own. Either they saw how much fun the girls were having or the legos lost their initial thrill.

We did the painting at the very beginning of the party and then set them out on the front porch where there was a very light breeze. 2 hours later they were dry enough to plant.  Well, all except 1 which had been thickly painted with every color by a very young 3 year old. Which leads me to recommend this project for kids that have progressed beyond mixing colors into a thick gloopy purplish brown. Either that or limit the color selection to just one color for those under 4 years of age. But that’s hard to do when you have mixed ages present.

A pot shard was placed in the bottom of each pot and the kids got to select and plant a flower of their choice. We tucked a plain but matching saucer into each of the thank you bags in case the pots found a home indoors. As you can see one of the kids choose to leave their pot unpainted but still wanted to plant a flower to bring home. They were all quite proud of their work.


10 06 2011

Decorations for the party were modest in comparison to my plans. In my mind I imagined paper butterflies of all colors, patterns and sizes covering the walls. Thank goodness I ran out of time because I think what we did pull off was just fine.

We made a balloon flower for each guest (the 4 invitees + siblings and the guest of honor = 7). The direction can once again be found on MSL and worked up rather quickly. The biggest challenge was finding 5 of the same color balloon and blowing them up to similar sizes. We didn’t bother with wrapping the nylon string suggested in the directions as they seemed quite stable as is and the string was super fiddly. I added a skinny dowel rod to each flower and placed them in vases of pussy willow branches around the house. As each guest departed we handed them a balloon flower much to their delight.


The chokecherry in our front yard was in full bloom but in desperate need of a trim so that guests, or rather their parents, wouldn’t need to hunch over to come up our front walk. So we ended up with piles of flowers, some of which we placed in little vases around the house and the remainder Steve used to line the front walk. We would have added sidewalk chalk decorations but it was raining on and off.

The piece de resistance, for me anyway, was this fabric garland. I had picked out the fabric weeks before but never found time to put it together. The day before the party I handed the pile to my mom and gave her the sweetest smile I could, asking her ever so nicely to cut out and sew together with some seam binding. I showed her pics of other garlands I like such as this one, and she made suggestions as to size and shape. Bless her heart she literally whipped this up the morning of the party.

I tried very hard to pick fabrics that not only went together and were suitable for Eleanor’s party this year but will also be flexible enough to be useful at many parties to come. Fingers crossed!

You’re Invited!

9 06 2011

Roses are red, Violets are blue
Eleanor’s turning 4 & wants to celebrate with you!

Well, not really. The party happened a few weeks ago. Sorry about that. However, there’s so much goodness to show you I’m going to have to break it down into several posts. Otherwise you’ll think I just self published a book!

First up, the invitations. We keep our birthday parties small here. This allows for a manageable party and higher quality invites, party favors and the like. I can also make sure everyone’s having a good time and focus on the birthday child. Therefore, Eleanor was able to invite 4 friends. She wanted a flower and butterfly party. To me that equated into a garden party but she would correct me on a daily basis – “you mean it’s a flower and butterfly party, don’t you?” Uh, yeah.

I choose packets of seeds that I felt went well with Eleanor – pink, organic, even the company name seemed appropriate. All of the pertinent party details were printed on pink paper along with a summary of the planting instructions that I covered up when I pasted the paper to the back of the seed packets. To include Eleanor in the process I pulled out some stickers my mom had given us through another project (that I can’t believe I haven’t shown you). I gave instructions to place a butterfly on every invite and a flower on every envelope. Controlling, aren’t I?

As a bonus we made up these plant markers to stick on the thank you bags. We made them from some pussy willow branches we had trimmed from our back yard. I found the idea on Martha Stewart and they couldn’t be easier to make up. I was wary of taking my good kitchen peeler to sticks, but the wood was fairly soft so it all worked out fine.


23 07 2010

Happy Birthday to my growing boy! I can hardly believe it’s been 6 years already.

I can’t imagine life without him.

Super Seth!

15 11 2009

To tell you about Seth’s Halloween costume I have to take a step back to July for Seth’s birthday party. Which is good because I’ve been having mommy guilt over the fact that I never posted about it. He wanted a superhero birthday party and that’s just what he got. There were only 3 activities, one of which I completely forgot until 2 days later. The thank you gift was part of the 1st activity – superhero dress up. The 2nd activity was a water gun fight, which I have conflicting feelings about. I don’t allow play guns in the house, but somehow can’t say no to water guns on a hot summer day. The 3rd activity, which I forgot to get out, was decorate your own super hero mask. Unfortunately, I had gotten the masks so far in advance I had to hide them because Seth wouldn’t leave them alone. I apparently hid them from myself too. Out of sight, out of mind. The kids didn’t seem to mind. And although it was unseasonably cool and therefore the water guns weren’t used much, they didn’t seem to mind that either. Besides there was cake.

So why did I need to tell you this in order to tell you about Seth’s halloween costume? Well, the dress up portion, of course! Steve and I freezer paper stenciled each child’s first initial onto t-shirts. Honestly, Steve did most of the work with this one. I found cheap t-shirts on sale, each a different color and size. Would have been easier to do all the same color, but the huge size differences in the kids made that impossible.

While Steve was stenciling I was making play silk capes. I kool-aid dyed more silk scarves as before only in a slightly smaller size. Then I made 2 folds on one of the edges and sewed a longer strip of  bias tape to make the collar edge. Love pre-packaged bias tape, all folded and ready for you. I was nervous about the sewing as I always am with sewing but it was a breeze and no-one could tell or would even mind that I can’t sew a straight line. Finally I added a little strip of iron on velcro to the ends of the bias tape. Easy on, easy off and no potential strangulation possibilities – just how I like it. They turned out great, if I do say so myself. And as a bonus they pack down really small for putting away at the end of the day. Or shoving in a corner as the case may be.

This all made for a very colorful backyard of kids.

Seth had no problem picking out his halloween costume this year – a superhero. He was set at least a month if not 2 before and never wavered in his choice. Whenever he was asked what he wanted to be, they always followed with the question “which superhero?” To which Seth gave them an odd look and either ran away or stated defiantly “Super Seth!!” He doesn’t really know a lot of the traditional superheroes, so to him this was a ridiculous question.

I finished off the outfit by dying one of those masks I had set aside to match his cape. And since t-shirts don’t fly in Minnesota at Halloween we added plenty of warmth with long johns, sweats and gloves. Unfortunately, although Seth liked the mask I made him it and wore it on several occasions, he couldn’t bring himself to wear it trick-or-treating. He found his swimming goggles much more appropriate.

Of course, even those didn’t make it the whole evening.

Puppy Party!

27 05 2009

The littlest member of our family turned two just over a week ago and we celebrated with a puppy party. She got to invite two friends and their associated siblings and parents. One of my sisters and my parents were able to make it as well. It was amazingly low stress and fun was had by all. Eleanor loves nothing more than puppies so a theme was easy to find. Actually I’ve never had trouble finding themes for the kids parties. There’s always something their gaga about. Here’s the pooper scoop:

The invites were quickly done up on the computer with paw prints running across. Nothing fancy. I did politely suggest that no presents were needed. A suggestion of a donation to a local shelter was made for those really wanting to do something. As such there was no present opening ceremony. I do believe that was the best idea of the whole party. Being a 2nd child and only 2 she really doesn’t need more stuff and heaven knows I’m having trouble finding space for it all. The party went smoother without the stress of trying to get a 2 yr old to stay on task of opening gifts and saying thank you. Instead we spread out what gifts were received over the weekend, making each one that much more special. Wish I had done that with Seth at this age.

Dog coloring pages were set out for any lulls, though there were few. The kids mainly ran off to play for the 1st hour. Then it was lunch time. We kept it fairly simple with some fruit and sandwich fixings. The theme came through however, with puppy chow mix and dog bone breadsticks.

These were a huge hit! I was quite surprised as they were rather made up and I had no idea if they would even work before hand. They’re just Pillsbury breadsticks from a tube with a knot tied on each end. The kids liked them enough that they sent me back in the house to make a 2nd batch. By the time the cake rolled around some of the kids were too full to even eat it.

Speaking of cake, it was delicious – an apple sauce cake made with maple syrup and apricot filling. A recipe from an old Martha Stewart Kids magazine. Wish I could find a link for you. I made the same cake for Seth’s 2nd birthday, but this time my mom was kind enough to “whip” it up. The quotes are because it’s not an easy cake, but worth it.

Drinks were also handed out in BPA free plastic cups the kids could take home. I struggled with this a bit. I didn’t want to do juice boxes – messy and wasteful. But I wasn’t handing a bunch of little ones open top breakable glasses either. So the take ‘n toss won. I added shrinky dink charms for easy identification strung on elastic cording. One charm was a puppy related picture traced or drawn by yours truly and the 2nd charm was simply their name.

The real fun came with the thank you gifts. I love giving favor bags at kids parties and this was no exception. The bags were meant to be the activity as well as the thank you and therefore a little more thought and effort went into them. They were handed out midstream to keep the party going. Not that the kids really needed it. My wonderful, creative, giving mother also whipped these cute little totes up for each child guest including my younger sister.

Hard to see but she even used her fancy sewing machine to embroider each child’s name along the top. The kids loved them. Inside each bag were dog stickers, a bag of scooby snacks (dog biscuit shaped graham cracker cookies), a dog ear headband and a dog collar. The kids immediately put on their ears. Here’s the birthday girl in her’s:

I made the dog collars the nights before with ribbon, iron-on velcro, split rings (like for key chains) and a charm hanging off an o-ring to connect it to the split ring. Eleanor refused to put her’s on. Too bad as I made it a little different from the rest with extra wide red ribbon. Seth on the other hand wears his daily.

Of course, this little guy is already making plans for his birthday in a couple months. His current request is for a spy party. We’ll see!

Rocket Ship Birthday Party

29 07 2008

The little man turned 4 last week and I threw him a rocket ship birthday party with the help from family over the weekend. Everyone had a ton of fun. I like to pick themes for birthday parties. It helps narrow down the possibilities. His 3rd birthday was all about bugs and his 2nd was about balls (click on each to see a few details). So far it’s been a breeze choosing a theme as Seth’s preferences have been very obvious. Here’s a rundown on our rocket ship party.

Invitations & thank you notes – relief print of Seth’s shadow rocket (see yesterday’s post)

Decorations – The piece de resistance was a rocket ship tent purchase on clearance after Christmas that was given to Seth for his birthday. I wanted to paint Styrofoam balls to look like planets and hang them with paper stars in the gazebo but ran out of time.

Food & beverages – We kept it simple here. For that matter I don’t think I’ve ever kept it this simple for a gathering of any kind. Just bottle drinks for the adults, juice boxes for the kids, chips, veggies & dip and one rocket ship cake. The cake was made from a box mix. Better than purchased, not as good as made from scratch. But again, time was an issue. (Although I didn’t give Eleanor anything other than water to drink, she seemed to be good at finding other’s left overs to shake. Good thing there was a pool to rinse her off in.)

Activities – Now here’s were I had fun. Regardless of the theme it is summer and was in the backyard so water was involved. A kiddy pool, sandbox and slip ‘n slide provided wonderful entertainment. The kids probably would have been satisfied had I done nothing else – but not me. Two rocket ship related activities were a must:

1. Astronaut portraits – We gave Seth an astronaut costume for his birthday. If this didn’t have the triple purpose of present, party prop and Halloween costume I wouldn’t have spend the money. (Yes, I realize I’m tempting fate by buying a Halloween costume this early in the year.) Each kid got to try on the suit and helmet. We had them pose in front of a backdrop made from left over tar paper stapled to the wood fence and spray painted with a star scape. I’ve cropped out their feet for a more “realistic” look and am including a print or two with each corresponding thank you note. The kids were so cute patiently waiting their turn. They each wanted a shot with the helmet closed as well as open. Many wanted multiple turns.

2. The second space themed activity was a scavenger hunt. I compiled 6 stock photos from those available from Microsoft. I hid a pile of these pictures in 6 locations in the neighbors yard. Each type of picture in a different location. After showing the kids what they were looking for and giving them directions I let them loose. The object being to collect all 6 pictures and return to me for a surprise reward (rocket ship stickers). I’m mean – I also made them count each one our for me as proof. If they didn’t have all 6 I would have them lay the pictures out on an uncut original sheet to see what was missing.

Just in case you want to host a space scavenger hunt of your own I’ve included a pdf for you to print. Make sure to print one more than the number of kids participating. Cut all sheets into 6 pictures except for one sheet to be used as the example. How well you hide the picture piles depends on how old the kids are. For preschoolers I wouldn’t get too sneaky. Here you go: space-scavenger-hunt

Thank you gifts – I adore thank you gifts. They’re inexpensive and fun. Sticking with our theme we included “sand from the moon” and some rocket balloons. To keep the cost down we split out packages of rocket balloons and wrapped in tissue 4 balloons and 1 or 2 blowing straws per child. Then we mixed up a bucket of homemade moon sand based off this tutorial – basically 2 parts play sand, 1 part cornstarch and enough water to create the right moldable consistency. Don’t expect it to be like the commercially processed moon sand but this is just as fun and a heck of a lot cheaper.

A big thank you to my parents and hubby for all heir help putting this together. Sometimes my ideas are bigger than the possibilities and it’s good to have a support troop to ground me.


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