MonthJanuary 2013

Halloween Parties

I love, love Halloween! I love it so much that I started a Halloween party tradition (okay, so I’ve only had two parties in the last three years, but in my defense, I skipped it because I had a 1.5 month old). For me, Halloween is this great excuse to be kid-like silly, ultra creative and go all out. Sometimes I’m not sure if I have more fun planning the party or hosting it. I basically break it into three groups of projects: decorations, party activities, and food. I’m starting to stockpile ideas. Here are some of my fun ones for each category:

Decorations: One of my favorite decorations this year (to be expanded for next year) is making my entry hall into a bat cave. I made a bunch of bat cutouts, some flying and some hanging. We taped the hanging bats to the walls, and use wire to make a mobile of bats. Next year, I’m going to take this one over the top by making a lot more bats (I think). I also have a few pieces I’ve collected, that I love. One is a black table cloth with a silvery spiderweb pattern. Another is this fun wreath my mother made (thanks Pinterest). Of course, you can’t go wrong with the traditional spider webs that cling to everything. (I always get a kick out of stringing it on our wedding photo.)

Activities: The first one will be a party tradition for me. Those of you who attend, just know that it’s happening every year — the mummy wrap. We partner up, grab a roll of cheap toilet paper, and wrap our buddy (or get wrapped). The fastest team gets the prize (usually a something that glows). It’s always good for a laugh, and I love watching the kiddos get involved. The first year we painted mini pumpkins, but I quickly learned that parents don’t love scrubbing paint out of costumes. So, the second time around, we decorated paper bags with foam stickers for trick-or-treating. We also had an eyeball eating contest, which were actually balls of ice cream with an M&M pupil and strawberry syrup for blood.

Food: The first year, I made a rookie mistake with the food. I didn’t put it all out at once, thinking I’d have time to restock the trays midway through the party. Ha, I didn’t even think about the food until afterward, and I ended up with a bunch leftover. Also, I learned that (at least in our group of friends) the savory bits go long before the sweet. So, I made sure to have some substantial food this time around. We did a baked potato bar, with lots of different toppings. I also made mummy hot dogs (hot dogs wrapped in bread stick dough and baked). I used food coloring to make eyes. I always love to have the smell of hot cider floating through the house in the fall. I make sure that is part of our menu. And, along the same lines, apples and caramel dip are also a requirement this time of year. I love getting red, yellow and green apples to put out with the dip.

My designer takeaway: When you find those projects that really peak your interest, it’s okay to dive in and go all out. They help you get through those projects that don’t.

100 Days of Cards

I actually did this two years ago, but I’m contemplating another go at it. I challenged myself to making a new greeting card each day for 100 days. This stemmed from my days in the College of Design at Iowa State University. One of the tasks we received after being accepted into the program was to sketch 100 thumbnail layout options for our first assignment. Now, 100 is a good challenge. A lot of us can bust out 10 to 20 different ideas without batting an eye. We have those stockpiled in our minds. A hundred, though, takes you beyond what you normally do and into some crazy concepts. And, yes, sometimes it is just to fill your quota. But, sometimes those wacky ideas lead to something good.

This was a good and fun challenge for me. First of all, I had 100 greeting cards to use. Secondly, I got to design something for myself. Rarely am I the one I have to appease with my designs. It fed my artist need. It definitely pulled me away from my standard layouts and colors. I did cards for different holidays, with illustrations only, with text only, with embellishments, computer generated cards, handmade cards… It was a fun challenge, and it was a manageable task for each day (though at times I did a bunch and then skipped a few days).

So, maybe I’ll be announcing my next 100 challenge sometime soon.

My designer takeaway: Every so often, push the limits of your standard layouts or concepts.

Photo Thank Yous

Something I started with my son was sending a homemade thank you card with a photo of him for birthday and holiday gifts. In the beginning, I’d make each one different with a photo of my son and gift from the person receiving the thank you (e.g., him laying on the blanket someone made him or unwrapping the toy they sent). Four years and another kid later, everyone gets the same photo, but they’re still a hit with the grandmas! I think I could do more with the design of these, but lately I feel like the photo says enough.


My designer takeaway: You can personalize a thank you with a image rather than text. (At times, we customize thank yous or certificates with images at work.)

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