MonthAugust 2014

A Lollipop Party

Last weekend, we held my daughter’s third birthday party. Let’s just say I was not in the mood to plan another party. I kept toying with holding it somewhere besides our house so I could minimize the effort I had to exert, but I just couldn’t find somewhere appropriate. So, dragging my feet, I did another party in our pole barn. And, it was great.


I’ve decided three year olds are old enough to pick their own party theme. My daughter said she wanted a lollipop party. So, we went with that, not feeling overly inspired. I got online and found some beautiful mini swirl lollipops and ordered them. They came in a package of 48, which meant I could use them to top cupcakes and for the goodie bags. And then, I was a bit stuck. What to do at a lollipop party … hmm … So, we went really simple!


Invitations: I drew my own little lollipop and made these brightly colored invitations for her party. I always like to include a photo.

Activities: These are the easiest ones I’ve done yet. I still feel a little guilty for the lack of effort I put into them, but the kids still had fun.


For the first activity, I put out all our playdough tools and toys on a low table. Then I bought a new package of all the colors of playdough so they would be nice and soft. The kids loved this area. I will warn you that all the colors ended up mixed together, but who cares, right!

For the next activity, we set out all our play pots and pans and food. Most of these toys live at grandma’s house so they feel new to my kids.


And then, I set out our play tent and tunnel, and soccer balls and goal. The kids didn’t use these too much this time. My son led a group around outside catching bugs for most of the party, ha! (Note the grasshopper in the bottle turned “bug box” above.) I always say, “They never play with things like I think they will.”


Food: I went for my standard party food: pizza, watermelon, grapes, veggies and dip, Cheetos, water bottles, juice boxes, cupcakes and ice cream cups. The cupcakes were cute and super simple. I iced them with white frosting and rolled the edges in sprinkles. Then I stuck a pretty lollipop in the middle. I left these wrapped so that kids could eat them later, if they wanted.

Decorations: This part was pretty easy for the lollipop theme. I just took the lollipops I drew for the invitations and printed them out as large as I could to hang on the walls. I made some full page versions to wrap around our outside posts. I also made little matching tags for our goodie bags.

My designer takeaway: Sometimes you’re just not feelin’ it, but you have to show up to the “party” anyway.

Before we’re all bloomed out …

As Fall is rapidly approaching, I realized that I haven’t shared any of my gardening from the summer. We had a few hail storms that set things back and irritated me, which is probably why I haven’t shared.


This year, in my big pot, I went back to the good old spike for the middle focal point. I stayed with the trailing verbena for that lovely cascading over the side effect (this year’s has two-tone flowers – I love it!). I kept those lovely petunias that provide so much color and stuck in a few vertical verbena for some variation.

For the layout, I put the spike off center and grouped the middle flowers, the vertical verbena and the petunias. I really like this year’s layout. I may repeat again next year.


In my flowerbed, the medium to tall perennials are thriving and mixing more than I’d prefer. I vow to watch them closely next spring and remove some of those taking over. If I messed with them at this point, it would just leave a big hole.


I’ve added a few more groundcover plants in the front. I think these should all fill in nicely over the next few years. My favorites for our area are the sedum. The hen and chicks especially thrive here and put out spectacular, alien-like flowers.

My designer takeaway: This year, stick with what works!

Playful Promotions

I can’t take credit for the concept (we have some pretty creative folks in our State Archives), but I had the pleasure of helping with these fun projects promoting the State Archives.

Historic Valentines
These were a last minute idea that we threw together to share on social media around Valentine’s Day. What a simple and inexpensive, yet fun way to show off both the collection of historical photographs in the archives and also give a glimpse into the state’s history.

Design wise, we went for cutesy (or cheesy). The best part is the photo anyway!

Who doesn’t love a paper airplane? This plane is a promotion for an oral history grant project that the State Archives did. It was handed out as flat sheets for people to take and fold.

My main job was making clear instructions for the plane folding. I modeled it off of some of my kids’ origami projects. (Yay for having kid stuff to inspire me!) These were a big hit. Everyone who walked by my office commented on the planes. I can tell you that coworkers were more than willing to help me test out these instructions for building this paper airplane. We even sent copies to meeting for the board that supplied the grant money.

My designer takeaway:
Every now and then, throw out the typical ideas. A little playfulness can be highly appreciated and appropriate!

Planning a Kid’s Birthday Party

I’m gearing up for the next birthday party in my family, and it occurred to me that I am a planner. From my experience with other creative/artistic personalities, this is unusual. Most of my classmates in college and creative parent friends now are successful and thriving last-minute people. There seems to be something about the threat of a deadline that drives them artisticly.

Not me. I plan, with wiggle-room for changes, but I plan.

Between the two kids, I am on my ninth kid birthday party. Here is how I break down the planning:

1. About a month out, I ask the soon-to-be birthday child for a theme. Then I wait a day or two and ask again. And perhaps one more time to make sure we’re good with the selected theme. 🙂

2. I start a page in my planner for party. Just one page where I write it all down. This page isn’t pretty, just functional.
– Dates and times I might use
– Who to send invitations to
– Activity ideas
– Food and supply needs
– Decorations to get or make
The best part about this page is that I can look back through last year’s or the previous kid’s party this year and see who we invited or how many pizzas I ordered (and I always order too many, but I’m down to one extra rather than three now).

3. I start looking online or through my family magazines for activity ideas. As always, I go for three activities and maybe throw in something extra like sports balls or coloring sheets for kid-directed fun. If you’re hosting it at a venue, this step may be easy for you: just book the venue.

4. While I’m looking for activities, I usually see lots of decorating ideas and cake/cupcake ideas. These seem to be documented better with photos than activities. And, to me, the activities are the most important element for the fun factor and the part I struggle with most. If I start there, the decorations seem to come easily.

Decorations totally depend on where you’re hosting the party. If it’s in your house, you can probably do more than if it’s in your yard or at a venue. I always say a colored tablecloth goes a long way to making a party. It’s a big splash of color. I like an outdoor sign so people know they’re at the right location.

5. Two weeks before the event, I like to send out the invitations. I feel like this is close enough that guests won’t forget and not too close that everyone will already have plans (and allows time for gifts to be purchased, if you do gifts at the party).

6. After the invitations go out, I try to pace myself with the decorations, goodie bags and food/supply purchasing. I like to do as much early prep as I can.
– I make the decorations in 1-3 evenings (usually after the kids are in bed or sometimes with the kids’ help) and set them in the basement to keep them safe for the event.
– I guess on the number of guests and make up goodie bags ahead of time. I keep these simple. I do two food (candy/treat) items and one toy.
– I make a food/supply shopping list and stash the non-perishable stuff in the basement, too.
For me, this makes the process enjoyable because I can work on it when I want. Of course there are last minute elements to complete the day of, but it’s usually manageable and fun.

7. I know this is not for everyone, but I like to make my own cakes or cupcakes because I think they taste better than what I can buy. I also enjoy decorating them. Here I either keep it simple or get some assistance from my mother who use to decorate cakes in a bakery. Mostly, I do cupcakes these days because they are faster and easier for handing out at the party. I usually make these the night before the party so they are fresh.

My designer takeaway: Do what works for you. I have met enough people to know that if someone is a last-minute accomplisher, they will succeed without planning time. If you’re a planner, maybe looking through my process will help you organize for your next event.

A Vacation with Inspiration

I just returned from an amazing vacation, a Mediterranean cruise. What a dream! I still can’t believe we pulled it all off! Of course, the sites of Europe are always inspiring, from the ancient places to the amazing architecture to the food and way of life. I found the street markets enticing and the laundry hung from balconies enchanting. I was amazed at how all of this rich history is mixed right in with homes and modern life, as if it could all be taken for granted because you see it out your window everyday.

Here are a few of the photographs I took for inspiration (as opposed to all of those I took looking like the tourist I was! Ha!). It was fun to play photographer again!

My designer takeaway: Nothing beats getting out and exploring the world to find new inspirations.

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