Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Princess Party Shenanigans: 23 Cakes, 24 Wands, 1 Banner

I had so many great sewing projects planned for Easter this year.  An Easter dress (lilac, even bought the fabric!), some stuffed animals, maybe an embroidered runner for the dining table. 

Instead, my daughter turned 4 and I became, somehow, one of those crazy women who throw elaborate parties for pre-schoolers. We had about 50 people total at the party.  I know!  It is silly, stupid and probably irresponsible.  You don't need to tell me.  That said, it was fun!

It is hard not to go overboard when you attend other kids' celebrations which are planned meticulously and executed as if the parents were professional party planners (there's a good chance that some of those parties were planned by professionals, I have no doubt).  My intention was to keep my daughter from having the one lame party of the year, to do it all myself and to not spend a ton of money.  Basically, my goal for this party could be summed up as "elaborate, but cheap".  Okay, the money part was my husband's idea.  He vetoed the Princess Aurora visit from the Cinderella Company on those grounds.  Boo! 

Here's the rundown of the things I made for the elabro-budget Princess Party- there is no sewing. It is just a long excuse as to why there is no sewing to show you.

The princess theme would not have been my first choice.  I probably would have done something more generic and more me, maybe a strawberry theme or farm theme, but for reasons too long to explain Disney princess was what we went with for the party.  Besides, the party wasn't for me, Abby is four and she has the rest of her life to be subtle and sophisticated.  Four is all about sparkles and PINK!

-I made the invitations using the terribly professional design program, Microsoft Word.  Perhaps you've heard of it?  From your more artsy friends?  Anyway, here's the invite. 

I had to mail them the same day I made them since the calendar snuck up on me.  I've changed the address and the phone number for safety's sake, obvs.  I sent out 34, all the girls at her school and a few boys.  I bought the cardstock at Target (50 for $9.95, including envelopes), with postage the cost was $24.03.  I won't count the ink.  They took me about 2 hours of messing around and printing. The font is a free one, called "Little Lord Fontenroy" which makes me laugh.  Ooo, forgot I also made return address stickers to match and a "4" sticker to seal the envelope.  I had those on hand since I have them in bulk for my Etsy store so they cost me like 16 cents.  FYI:  22 of the 34 RSVP'd.  What is wrong with people?  Or am I just turning into my Great Aunt Betty?

-4 bunches of cut flowers for floral arrangements, done by my sister, from Safeway. She did a great job even though she complained the whole time that she was bad at it.  The irises are from the property.  I owned the vases, but bought the pink water ball thingys at Walmart:  $25.

-Chalkboards signs were a steal at the Dollar Tree for, you guessed it, $1.  I intend to find all sorts of excuses to use them.  I bought 5, but only used 4.  The chalk markers were more expense at $12 for 4 at Michael's.  $17.00 total.  They lock the chalk markers up at the front of the store.  Isn't that weird?  Kids aren't going to go tag overpasses with them since they wash off with water and a paper towel.  Are SAHM shoplifting them?

-Birthday Banner!  Yes, I own a Cricut and no, I don't scrapbook.  The paper I purchased at Joann's; they were having a great sale, I think it was 3 sheets for $1.  You can't really tell from the photo, but the light pink is glitter paper cardstock.  I made the scallops at 10.5 inches and the letters at 8.5".  I had some difficulty cutting the scallops.  The paper was really thick and my mat is losing it's sticky-ness.  I know there are ways to treat them vs. buying new ones.  I just don't use the machine often enough to teach myself.  The banner took me about 1.5 hours (including dragging my Cricut out of the guestroom and gluing it all together).  Cost was about $4. 

This was the hard part for me.  I didn't want to send the kids home with a bunch of candy and plastic crap, which would probably have been easier looking back.

-For the favor bags I used brown paper princess lunch bags, 8 cents each. People kept asking me if I stamped them which is a really good idea, too.  I will have to remember that for future parties.  Inside the bags, for the girls, were two princess notebooks $1, three princess lip glosses $2.99, a crown lollipop at 50 cents, 2 princess stickers at 10 cents, and princess plush slap bracelets $1.  Total cost per favor bag turned out to be  $5.67 each.  I had to make 22 for $124.74 spent.  They looked really cute all together.  The boys got slightly different stuff, a ball, a compass, a set of superhero rummy cards, Toy Story stickers and Pop Rocks.  I just tied blue ribbon on the top of their bags, princesses facing the back, and called it a day. 

-To keep the kids busy during the party (and for them to take home) I bought bubbles for them to blow and paper crowns for them to wear.  The crowns were from Oriental Trading Company and so were seriously cheap and I have a TON left over for pretend play.  The bubbles were from Dollar Tree and smelled like fruit!  $27.

-I also bought rings for the kids to pick from during the party.  I bought nice metal ones that were adjustable and shaped like tiaras and then mixed them in with cheap-o plastic "gem" rings from Wal-mart.  I passed them out in a faux-velvet lined jewlers' tray which I intend to now use for my Victorian fob collection.   Together the cost was $34.  I also fell down the stairs passing them out.  Awesome!

- Ribbon Wands!  These were seriously fun.  I followed the directions from here, but used way more ribbon.  To save money I bought 36" dowels and had my husband use a table saw to cut them into 12" sections.  Instead of Fray Check I used a candle to heat seal the ends of the ribbons so they won't unravel.  I used two bells, a large one and a small one for extra festiveness.  Because I used so much more ribbon I'd say these cost me $1.25 each.  They take virtually no time to make though and turned out beautifully.  I can totally see why people use them at weddings.  I cut and sealed all the ribbon one evening and then assembled them all together in another evening with some help from sister, Anna, while we watched tv.  The kids loved them.  I might have danced around the house with one like a rhythmic gymnast.  Maybe.

-Cake Decorating!  This was the main activity for the party.  I baked 23 6-inch three tier cakelets, one for each of the kids to decorate using this cake form from Chicago Metallic.  Great product!  Some notes on this pan:  spray it, don't grease it, and spray it well.  Really well. It was 23 cakes instead of 24 because one got stuck. Fill above the line for the last tier so you can just slice off the top and get perfectly flat bottoms.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, turn, bake another 15 minutes, slice off the tops and bake an additional 5 minutes.  None of this is what the directions say to do, but it bakes them so they aren't too soft for frosting by a pre-schooler.  To fill all four cavities you'll need 1.5  boxes of cake mix.  I used 9 boxes of cake.  On sale, for 88 cents!  Really glad this party landed around Easter.  I made the icing from scratch (it's gross, I mean it tasted fine, but making it was gross) using this recipe for Evil Buttercream from Prudent Baby.  I had to make three batches which used 6 lbs of powdered sugar.  SIX POUNDS.  I gave each kid a plastic cup of white icing and a small spatula to frost their cake and then laid out tons of colored icing, candies and  sprinkles so they could decorate them.  The piping bags, tips and stand, the food coloring and all the extras like the little glass containers for the candies along with the cake mix and the special pan came to be about $145.  I have a lot of leftover cake decorating stuff though so I may crown myself the Queen of Cupcakes this summer. 

-I left lunch to my husband.  We had hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and three different amazing salads.  It was delicious.  He even made his own mustard.  Since he was in charge of it, this cost me $0.00.  I realize that's cheating, but I don't care.  I have budget to keep.

-The actual birthday cake, supposedly for the adults, was a full size three tier spice cake with cream cheese frosting.  It took FOREVER.  I was baking until 3 a.m.  Cost was high because I had to buy the pans, about $60 altogether for everything.  The kicker was we didn't end up eating it.  Instead we took it over to my in-laws for Easter brunch and Abby got sung to again.  It was pretty tasty, even two days later.

-Cotton candy machine!  I don't think I got a good photo of this, but my mom manned a cotton candy cart for the party.  It was bright pink and just perfect.  My sister's boyfriend works at a hardware store that rents them out which I still think is totally bizarre.  The kids loved it (even if the parents were probably like, "A cake and cotton candy?? Die, Abby's mom!  I've got to take this kid home!").  There was only one minor injury, my mom got whacked on the hand by the spinny things.  $40 and it would make enough cotton candy for 70 people.  It went home with my mom and my college aged siblings whose metabolisms can handle that without insulin shots.

Grand total:  I have no intention of adding this up. 
Verdict:  Never again.  She loved it, it was fun.  Way too much mental stress.  And the baking!  I never want to smell warm cake again.  My sister proved herself to be an amazing person once more who kept me calm and fairly rational.  I keep thinking I should have another baby just so Abby might have a sister when she gets older.  I'll be back to sewing soon.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Decisions: No Shilling (for cash or prizes)

So I got an email from CSN Stores offering to sponsor either a giveaway where I'd give out a gift card to one of my lucky readers or shop for myself and give a review here on my oh-so-important blog that will surely influence the masses to shop their bizarre conglomeration of stores.

This is flattering, but absolutely laughable for many reasons:
1.  My influence barely extends beyond my dining room table.

2.  Pretty sure I'm related or at least personally connected to everyone who visits this blog.  Hi Mom!

3.  I'm using a standard blogger layout- I haven't even bothered to have one designed for me.  How does that inspire confidence in my online marketing ability?

4. This is the doozie:  I've purchased from them before and it was a total disaster.  It was a few years ago to so perhaps they've gotten their act together since then, but let's just say it involved an expensive globe, Christmas, zero customer service and disappointment.

While this offer was ridiculous, it is a decision most bloggers eventually have to make if they have much of any traffic at all:  whether or not to use their online presence to make money, get freebies or cultivate a following for whatever purpose be it ego or promotion of themselves as a brand. And yeah, as you may have guessed, I'm not going to do any of that.  Yeah, I have an Etsy shop but I have to force myself to keep up with it most of the time.  And this decision to not shill, is not because I don't like money or free crap or that I have some sort of moral standard where I think corporations are evil and and a corrupting influence in the blogosphere. 

It is more that I'm lazy.  Really lazy.

Plus, there are literally thousands of bloggers, a lot of them women, a lot of them stay at home moms, most of them more talented and creative then me who do need the support of people like CSN or Silhouette or Cricut to compensate them for the time and effort they spend on their blogs, not just updating and linking, but doing the crafts and projects in the first place.  They don't need more competition from someone who doesn't need to do it and isn't especially good at it anyway.  I don't want to feel obligated to do projects or spend hours checking out linky parties if I don't want to.  If I want to spend the day like I did yesterday watching a marathon of "Criminal Minds" instead of sewing I don't want to feel bad about it.  (I think the theme yesterday was episodes featuring Academy Award winners slumming it on CBS.)

Rest assured, my many loyal, non-existent fans, any product endorsement going on here will be honest and probably inconsequential!  You have my word.  I will remain lazy.

Upcoming Projects: Not Yet Blogged

a rundown of what I've been up to: DIY wedding dress, "Back to School Night" decor, Flower Arranging for the Incomptent, more jam labels, a dog bed solution, paper embroidery, flying pig needlework, attempting to scrapbook, make your own board game kit, Link from Zelda costume, organinzing for homework, and how to build an afterschooling program!

how to declutter after a death... and how not to do it

what do you do with all your fat clothes? Make doll clothes!