pARTy!

There is a happy disappointment when one of my children requests an outsourced birthday party. I am happy that I do not have to clean my house, set up a party, and clean my house again. I am disappointed because when I book a party at an outside location, it limits how much I am allowed to do. I am a little Type A, so it is hard for me to let someone else have control over the party activities. This year my daughter wanted an art party (art = really big mess). This turned out to be a GREAT choice for an away from home birthday. What are other good places to book a party?

The Invitation: Often kid party locations (like a bounce party, children’s museum, Little Gym…) will give you pre-printed invitations with blank lines to fill in the name, date, and time. That is way too generic for me, and since I was already worried about the party not being personal enough, I had to order my own invitations. I ordered a printed card from MyExpression.com. Once I approved the proof, the invitations arrived within 2 business days, and I did not even select rush shipping!

The Location: My basic criteria for an away from home party is to have an area dedicated to my group only. It is hard for the birthday child to see friends if you book a party at a location where you mix with the general population for the main activity and then come together at a table for cake at the end. Chuck E. Cheese anyone? I encourage (and by encourage, I mean tell) my kids to choose party locations where we are the only group there, or we get our own room for the whole event. If you have a 4Cats Arts Studio in your area, I highly recommend booking a party there. At 4Cats, the standard party group is ~10 kids. You are in an area with only your group for the entire event.

    

The Activity: My daughter chose from a variety of themes for her party. We chose the Fairy Party. The party guests made a sculpey clay fairy, then painted a background on a 5×7 canvas board.

The Snacks and Cake: I ordered 2 dozen cupcakes from the grocery store and had them iced in 6 different colors. We set 6 of the cupcakes on a painter’s palette (Yeah, Pinterest!). We stuck one candle in each cupcake and treated the whole palette like a cake. For snacks, I served a new Chex mix in little mini paint pails. I also made my favorite kid sandwiches. Click here for the Chex Mix and Party Sandwich Recipes.

The Party Favors: While guests were waiting for parent pick-up, we gave each child a mini wooden easel to color with Sharpie pens. It was the perfect size to hold their sculpey paintings (and I think it may be the perfect size for American Girl too– FYI). The kids took home their fairy sculpey art piece, the mini wooden easel, and the mini paint pail.

Chex Cereal, the Cadillac of Snack Ingredients

I never thought I would have a recipe box dedicated to one ingredient, but I am becoming dangerously close to having just that with my Chex Party Mixes. They are so versatile, and you can make them in large quantities for nursery school snacks, birthday parties, and adult get togethers. The almighty Chex cereal (and its distant cousins– Crispix and Golden Grahams) are the perfect base for sweet or salty snacking.

tijuana tidbits chex party mix

The neighborhood card sharks met in our backyard office Saturday night, and I made Tijuana Tidbits. This is the newest member of my Chex Party Mix recipe box. Watch out, it has a kick!

Do you have any Chex Party Mix combos I can add to my arsenal? I have many sweet Chex recipes like the Dinosaur Chex Mix, but I am looking for some more savory combinations.

Ingredients

  • 4 c. Fritos original corn chips
  • 4 c. Crispix cereal
  • 1 bag microwave popcorn (remove “old maids”)
  • 1 8-oz can mixed nuts
  • 1 c. cashew nuts
  • 1/2 c. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 c. margarine, not butter
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1/3 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. cayenne pepper

Directions

  • Heat oven to 250 degrees.
  • Combine chips, cereal, popcorn, and nuts in a large bowl and mix gently.
  • Combine corn syrup, margarine, brown sugar, chili powder, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Heat to boiling and pour over Frito mixture. Stir until coated.
  • Pour coated mixture onto a roasting pan (sprayed with Pam). Bake 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and turn onto waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container.

Tonka Birthday Party

I think it is mandatory for all little boys to want a construction or tool party at some point. My son was no exception. He had a real tool thing going when he was little. For his second birthday, we threw a construction and tool party that was a great toddler party. But– stay tuned– because I am also including a variation to this party for older kids (and by “older” I mean up to adult aged kids) at the end of the post. This is another PB (pre-blog) party, so my photo choices are limited.

The Invitations: I had two options for the invitations. We ended up using an invitation that showed a boy and his tool belt, but I also had some dump truck invitations that I included in the picture above. In fact, I still have them (in their original box). There are ten in the box plus a sample; I will MAIL THEM to the follower who posts a comment with the best idea for an activity, party favor, decoration, or even why you are thinking about throwing a tool/construction party. I will post the winner on Sunday, August 5 with information about how to receive this ONE OF A KIND PRIZE. I am quite certain the competition will be fierce. Psst, Aunt B, this is your chance.

The Activity: For weeks, I saved paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, cereal boxes and other recyclable materials. I purchased Elmer’s glue, craft sticks, wooden dowels, foam stickers, wood blocks, foam blocks, and any other materials I thought could be used in building. I set up two low tables in our basement and covered them with butcher paper. I set all the materials on the tables, so the guests could walk up and create.

The Party Favor: The Dollar Store had plastic tool kits. I put the tools in a Lowe’s canvas tool belt and wrote guest names in Sharpie pen across the front. We tied these on the guests as they arrived, so they could use the tools while building with the recyclable materials.

The tool belt pictured was a birthday gift, but the Lowe’s belt party favor looked similar.

The Cake: I used a bakery in New Orleans for this one. They created a rocky terrain with icing then set construction vehicles onto the cake.

The Food: We served nuts and bolts (Chex Mix), Fritos, and small sandwiches with the crusts cut off. The food choices were not anything super exciting, but I borrowed all of my son’s dump trucks, lined the truck beds with coordinating paper napkins, and used those as the serving dishes. That was a good little detail!

The Gift: My parents gave my son a play workbench, which is one of the best I have ever seen. For a little bit bigger child, a great gift is the Real Construction sets.

The Older Party: This past year, my parents won a “Tonka Party” at a charity auction. A construction company had donated a trip to the site where they keep all of their equipment. My mom booked the party over Christmas when all of the grandkids, kids, and grandparents would be together. She invited some other family friends too. The party included rides on the big equipment like the back hoes, pulling the air horn on the dump truck (believe me, the adults lined up faster than the kids), and climbing around on the front loaders and other big trucks. I am not sure if you have a local construction site willing to do this, but it sure was something different. My mom made sack lunches for all of the guests and served Bloody Mary’s for the big kids and hot chocolate for the little kids.

Animal Hospital Birthday Party

My sister threw an animal hospital birthday for my niece, and I adapted her idea a little when my daughter was turning three.  We lived in New Orleans at the time, and you can book a petting zoo there that will come to your house and set up a pen in your backyard with rabbits, turtles, goats, chickens, and few other small animals.

The Invitations: I like to order blank invitations from Fine Stationery.  I think they have a huge selection of almost every party theme you need. I printed the invitations on my home printer and included phrases like, “Join us for the third anniversary celebration of (name’s) animal hospital” and “Please confirm appointment with the vet” for the RSVP line.

Adopt a Pet: We placed enough Beanie Babies for all the guests in a pak-n-play by the entrance to the party.  Guests picked one out of the crib and could take their new pet to the vet table for a health exam and adoption certificate.

The Vet Table: One of our babysitters was a nursing student.  She wore her scrubs to the party and completed health exams for everybody’s new pet.  She used a play doctor’s kit and took temperatures, looked at eyes, examined the animal’s coat, listened to the heartbeat, etc. before filling out the forms.

The Pet Carriers: At a table, we had white gift bags with handles that you could decorate with stamps, stickers, or markers.  There was a circle cut out of the side of the bag, so the pet’s face could peek out.  We put paper from our paper shredder at the bottom of the bags like that nesting material pet shops use.

The Snacks: We filled bowls with bone shaped sugar cookies (dog food), Goldfish (cat food), and Chex mix (kibble).

Dinosaur Dig

After the success of the “J” week jellybean treat, we decided to send in another themed snack to the nursery school class during “D” week.  We combined some Chex mix recipes and came up with a dinosaur style snack mix.  The idea was to have kids dig for dinosaur bones and dinosaur eggs in the snack mix.

Ingredients

  • 2 c. Corn Chex cereal
  • 2 c. Rice Chex cereal
  • 1 1/2 c. oyster crackers
  • 1/2 c. small pretzel sticks or pretzel snaps
  • 2 c. graham sticks (dinosaur bones) or Stauffer’s original animal crackers (dinosaurs)
  • 6 oz. dried fruit (we liked a combination of dried blueberries, cranberries, and cherries)
  • 1 c. yogurt-covered raisins (dinosaur eggs)
  • 5-6 T. butter, melted
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground nutmeg

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 13×9 pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Place cereals, oyster crackers, pretzels, and graham sticks in a large bowl; mix lightly.
  • Combine butter, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in small bowl; mix well.  Drizzle evenly over cereal mixture.  Toss to coat. **If the mixture is pretty dry, mix another half batch of butter/sugar/spice and add.
  • Spread the coated cereal mixture in an even layer on the pan.
  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown, stirring gently halfway through.  Cool completely.  Stir in dried fruit and yogurt-covered raisins.

Variations

  • Instead of graham sticks or animal crackers, you could use mini-dinosaur grahams.  I can’t ever find these at my grocery store, but I think they are out there.
  • For “G” week, you could make Gorilla Grub and substitute the yogurt-covered raisins and dried fruit for plain raisins and dried banana chips.