A 5-Star Thank You Note

I am a little bit of a thank you note snob. When we give a gift at a children’s birthday party, I want to get a thank you note because I want confirmation that my gift made it to the birthday girl or boy. I am never sure what happens to our gift after I drop my child at the mega bounce house party and leave the present in the big wagon-o-gifts that is supposed to make it out to the birthday child’s car. The thank you note is the only way I know our friend has the gift in his/her possession.

After my kids receive gifts at their birthday party, I work really hard to make sure my children write thank you notes in a timely manner. When they were littler, I wrote the notes on their behalf and had them draw a picture, sign their name, or add some sort of scribble.

After the party is over, getting my children to write these thank you notes is a chore. One fab friend allowed her daughter to only open 2-3 gifts after her birthday party. The child could not open any more gifts until she completed thank you notes for the first few gifts. My friend said it worked like a charm until they got to the last few gifts. At that point, almost all of the thank you notes were complete, so it was not such a monumental task.

Since we just hosted a Star Wars birthday sleepover, my son has a few thank you notes to write. I started thinking a little about the whole thank you note process and developed a 5-star thank you note classification system. Now, depending on the situation, a 2-star thank you might be totally appropriate. Ultimately, I don’t care if I get a 1-star thank you– I just like knowing that the gift was received and acknowledged.

It would make me feel better to know that someone out there takes their thank you note writing as seriously as I do. Is it important for you to get a thank you note after giving a gift, and do you have any tips for making the thank you note writing process a little easier?

5-Star Rating

A handwritten note that is delivered via snail mail. It has personal comments and explains why the person who received the gift appreciates it. The thank you note is completed within 2-3 weeks. If you have personalized stationery, you just bumped your thank you note into a whole separate thank you note domain.

4-Star Rating

A partially handwritten note that is delivered via snail mail. It may be one of those fill in the blank kind of cards that are great for younger children who are just learning to write. It specifically names the gift that was given. The thank you note is completed within 2-3 weeks.

3-Star Rating

An e-mail or phone call to the person who gave the gift. The gift receiver names the gift and why he/she liked it. The thank you e-mail or call is completed within 2-3 weeks.

2-Star Rating

You thank the person who gave you the gift in person the next time you see them.

1-Star Rating

A generic letter or e-mail that says thank you to a whole group for the gift(s). It does not name the specific gift given or a specific person who gave the gift. I am guilty of sending one of these thank you notes to my students after receiving a very nice gift card. It was a particularly hectic holiday, and I wanted the whole class to know I received the gift.

Bitty Birthday Cupcakes

We are sending itty bitty cupcakes (recipe below) to my son’s class at school in honor of his birthday this year. As a teacher, I spend more time on the distribution side of class birthday treats, and I have some guidelines for any newbies to the school birthday treat circuit. Sending birthday treats for the class starts in nursery school, and the rules don’t change too much no matter how old you are.

  1. If possible, let the teacher know ahead of time about the type of treat you will be sending and what day. It helps teachers plan for a special snack time and anticipate any food allergy alerts (always send nut-free items just in case).
  2. Send enough for the whole class AND the teachers. Let me repeat– send enough for the teachers.
  3. Send small treats. Rather than a whole donut for each child, send donut holes (two to three Munchkins per child). Rather than regular cupcakes, send mini versions.
  4. Send items that are pre-cut, pre-packaged, or individually wrapped to make sharing the snack easier.
  5. Don’t forget paper napkins, paper plates, and plastic utensils if needed.
  6. You do not have to send an edible treat. Kids love fun pencils, Japanese erasers, crazy straws, stickers, etc.
  7. In my experience, sending birthday treats begins to taper off around the 4th grade. By 5th and 6th grade, maybe a quarter of the students send in birthday snacks.

I love this recipe for Perfect Cake-Mix Cupcakes courtesy of Hello, Cupcake!. I like the frosting recipes in the Hello, Cupcake! book too, but I totally cheated this time and used the pre-made Betty Crocker Cupcake Icing in the squeeze cans with the decorative tips. I used gelatin shot cups to make the super mini size. I found the tiny cups in the paper product aisle at my grocery store.

Ingredients

  • 1 box (18.25 oz) cake mix (French vanilla or yellow)
  • 1 c. buttermilk (in place of the water called for on the box)
  • vegetable oil (the amount on the box, usually 1/3 c. for yellow cakes)
  • 4 large eggs (in place of the number called for on the box)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Set out paper gelatin shot cups on a tray with a lip. The gelatin cups stand on their own, but they will also fit into mini muffin cups if you are worried about them tipping over. The recipe makes 24 regular sized cupcakes, so you should get ~48 mini cupcakes.
  • Follow the box instructions, putting all of the ingredients in a large bowl and using the buttermilk in place of the water specified, using the amount of vegetable oil that is called for, and adding the eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, about 2 minutes longer.
  • Fill gelatin cups a little less than 2/3 full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

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.

Ice Cream Sundae Birthday

Part of our recent road trip was a visit to my sewing sister’s house. This is my sister who made the drawstring bags for our Hello Kitty birthday party. Our trip overlapped with my niece’s 8th birthday, and we were able to celebrate with her. My niece invited two friends to come swimming on the afternoon of her birthday. On the day of the party, my sister whipped up some activities that made the party look like she had been planning for weeks (not only does this sister sew, she is also very good at parties). She kept it simple, but it was so cute and colorful.  I think it would be an easy party to host for a wide variety of ages. What are other good ideas for impromptu birthday parties that look coordinated and well-planned?

The Face Painting: My sister did an Internet search for kids’ tattoos– not face painting designs– and copied a collection of simple ideas on master pages that were easy for the kids to reproduce. She set up the face paints and design choices on the table by the pool.  It was a “self-serve” operation. The kids took breaks from swimming and decorated their faces, hands, legs, backs…

The Cake: My whole family loves a grocery store birthday cake! My sister ordered an undecorated cake– she did plan this ahead of time– and provided materials for the guests to decorate it. Think of the finished product as an edible pinata. TIP: We decided that an activity like this probably needs a small group. Maybe eight children, max. If you are having a larger party, provide individual cakes or two or three larger cakes. The Betty Crocker Cake Mate squeezable frosting cans were perfect for this project. They came in bright colors and offered different frosting tips for fun decorating options.

Before

During

After

The Ice Cream Sundaes: My sister had colorful spoons and bowls from a previous party and purchased a variety of ice cream toppings at the grocery store. After we scooped ice cream, the guests added as many toppings as they wanted!

The Supplies: Most of the food items were in white or blue ramekin dishes. Everything my sister used was in bright “ice cream” colors, which created a themed look to the party even though it was a very casual get together. She had pink bowls, ice cream sundae spoons, brightly colored M&Ms, sprinkles, chocolate and caramel toppings, ice cream cones, brightly colored frosting, and Tervis Tumblers with colorful lids filled with M&Ms for party favors.

Slip N Slide Birthday Party

This was a very easy party to host. My son has a summer birthday, and any outdoor parties need to be water-related. If you read the pirate and army birthday posts, you know about our heat dilemmas. We had the Slip N Slide party when my son turned three, and it was a big hit. Unfortunately, the party was BB (before blog), so I do not have very many detail pictures to share. What fun outdoor summer birthdays have you hosted– or attended?

The Invitations: This was one of the first invitations I ordered from Fine Stationery and printed on my home computer. I will admit that I lifted phrases from the samples on the website. The invitation said, “Slip, Slide Wheeee! (name’s) Turning Three!” I had an e-mail and phone number for any guests who “could not slip by.” The invitation also asked guests to wear a swimsuit and bring a towel.

The Water Activities: By August, almost all of the water toys and equipment are on sale at stores like Target, Walmart, and KMart. I bought two Slip n Slides, an inflatable pool with a basketball hoop, a plastic baby pool, a crazy sprinkler, and water toys like buckets and small watering cans. We filled water balloons too. We set everything up in the backyard. We did not have any organized activities, and guests just played in the water.

The Party Favors: We ordered these crazy sea creature swim goggles from Oriental Trading. They looked great in the picture on the website but were pretty poor quality. The straps broke, and the goggle part did not fit on the face well. I was not expecting Olympic grade goggles or anything, but I thought they would at least last through the party. I would not order them again.

The Food: Snacks were pretty minimal.  We set out bowls of pretzels and Goldfish. We served a birthday cake with bright colors on it. I do usually order our birthday cakes from the grocery store because I love grocery store birthday cakes! I think the super sugar frosting they use is fabulous.