Planning a Well Crafted Party: Invitations

I’m a big fan of invitations. BIG FAN. After brainstorming an event I typically focus on invitations next. Often I create my own–although, I know my limitations and sometimes opt to buy from some of my favorite invitation supply stores.

Today we’re gonna focus on the do-it-yourself invitation:

Once I get an idea for a party I start to focus on how the invitation can convey the theme of the party without blatantly writing “this is the theme”. Then I play around a bit on my computer or with my pens and papers until I create something I really like. After the first prototype I try to lessen the steps and then create an assembly line for myself to process invitations in bulk.

My invitation for my upcoming “Love and Ice Cream” Personal Shower:

While designing an invitation I use either my word processing software (Pages), Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop. There are a lot of great page layout software that would also work well for most home designs. If I am making an invitation for one of my own parties and don’t have a font I typically drool over the amazing selection of free for personal use fonts over at Please note that if you use these fonts they should only be for personal use and many of the fantastic designers have websites with fonts to purchase or a lovely little link that allows you to help donate to the artist.

Tools for creating an invitation:

The tools vary based on what you design but mine often include: computer, printer, paper, card stock, envelopes, scissors, pens, paper, markers, ribbon, straight cutter, hole punch, cutting board, Exacto knife, glue stick and…. lots and lots of coffee.

I love the look of a lined envelope–it just adds so much to the invitation. Here is how I line my envelopes:

1) Print off a design on an entire sheet of paper –or, hey, save some ink and use some of your left over scrapbook paper, newspaper, magazine paper (you get the idea).
2) Outline a template on the paper and cut out. If you are using Paper Source envelopes then you might be interested to know that they have templates that they sell for most of their envelope sizes. If you are using another type of envelope you can create your own liner template. Check out this tutorial and templates for creating your own envelope liner templates.
3) You don’t need to glue the entire liner to the envelope. I find that using a simple glue stick on the flap of BOTH the liner and envelope holds the whole thing just fine.
4) Now repeat, repeat, repeat. Great huh?

The rest of the invitation:

1) Print out as many of the designs that will fit on the paper as possible. No sense in wasting!
2) Cut out everything you need and gather together neatly (I promise this step helps a lot in the long run).
3) Using an assembly method attach each part of the invitation with care.
4) Pay attention to the small details– your guests will appreciate the extra effort. I like putting notches in the ribbons I put on my invites.

Lastly, make sure that the invitations continue to look great by writing or affixing addresses to the envelopes before stuffing them.

Have fun making the first impression of your party!

Reader’s Question: What supplies do you like to use when creating invitations?

Planning a Well Crafted Party: The 5 Ws and How

Do you remember the grade-school exercises in the five Ws? Well, to begin planning a party you must first gather answers to those basic questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. The only difference between now and the same exercise in grade-school? This is a whole bunch more fun.

With the tools that we talked about a couple posts ago get started working on the basic questions by brainstorming about the event.

Take each of the 5 W’s and How and work out the basics of the party:

WHO: Who is throwing the party? Who is the party for? Who will be contributing financially? Who will be invited?

WHAT: What is the party’s theme? What will be served at the party? What will the activities be during the party? What is the most important part of the party? What will you give as favors? What will make this party unique? What will the party look like?

WHEN: When will the party take place (date, time)? When will the party take place in people’s eating schedule (lunch, dinner, dessert)? When will you send the invitations?

WHERE: Where will the party take place? Where will important party areas (bar, food, gifts) be located? Where will people park?

WHY: Why are you having the party? Why should people come to the party?

HOW: How will the people get to the party? How will you get the decorations for the party? The food? How will people RSVP?

Sometimes you can answer the party questions easily with a few words on a piece of paper. Other times you might want to draw up your ideas or find similar pictures from blogs or websites. This stage is meant for you to really dream about the event in all it’s glory. Later we will have to look at the budget and try to make our ideas work in our reality– but, this stage is for dreaming.

Below is my planning stages of a party I am throwing for my sister’s personal shower next month.

(ignore the coffee stains… I spilled a little! )

Friday Finds: Party Planning Goodies

When planning a party it is nice to have a checklist or plan to help streamline the process. The more parties that you throw the easier it will be to create your own checklists based on your individual party needs. But, even a seasoned host can fall in love with the great resources the following finds provide:

Websites with Party Planning Downloads:

1) has a wedding planning checklist that would easily work for other parties as well. 2) “How to Throw a Great Party” 3) is a go to place for all kinds of party checklists 4) Everyone knows how much of a fan of iDiY I am… they have a complete list of downloads perfect for weddings and easily re-purposed for other parties.

Party Planning Websites:

1) 2) 3)

Planning a Well Crafted Party: Tools

One of the many things I hope to do with this blog is to help others learn to plan (and love planning) a party.  Over the next few weeks I will be posting different steps in creating a party. Now, I could do a three step party or something super simple (and, maybe someday I will). But, this time I am going to give you the steps in the same order that I do them, at the same time I am doing them.

In getting ready for a party, any party, I go through the same stages that I will be discussing with you on this blog. Sometimes, if it is a very large party, these stages take time and effort. If it is a smaller party I can usually fly through most of the steps in a couple of hours.

My party planning tools often include:

sources: binders, pens, magazines, books (books pictured include David Tutera’s “The Party Planner” and Matthew Mead’s “Entertaining Simple”, computer, paper

Now, a lot of these things are optional– you don’t have to have party planning books and magazines at home to plan a great party. And, I have plenty of great parties without a binder to keep everything together. But, these tools are certainly useful and don’t underestimate your resources. I often go to the library for internet use or to peruse the unlimited amounts of inspiration found in all kinds of different books.

I found that the only thing I absolutely have to have when planning my parties is paper and pens or pencils. That is it–the rest, just icing.

Question for Readers: What part of planning a party do you really enjoy? Which part do you dislike?

Bouncing Baby Boy Baby Shower

That is a lot of “B”s.

A friend of mine asked me to design an invitation for a baby shower. She wanted something she could e-mail out and help design a shower around with the colors blue and brown. So, I started playing around on my computer and happened upon the idea of a “Bouncing Baby Boy” Baby Shower. It would work with really any color scheme and with many found objects. I see pom poms hanging from the ceiling, gum balls in vases topped with a mound of colorful carnations and lots of circles in the form of banners, cupcake toppers and more.

The Invite:

The Inspiration Board:

Sources: 1) Invitation designed by me 2) I love pom poms!! These beauties are available at Party Poms Etsy Shop 3) My friend really wants to do a diaper cake and I found this adorable one over at Swish Designs 4) This delicious looking cake was featured on The Party Dress and would fit in with the bouncing ball theme 5) A garland of clothes pins would be the perfect place for well wishes and advice for the couple– cut colorful circles out of scrapbook paper to fit the theme. (This garland was featured in a wedding on Style Me Pretty) 6) Beautiful round paper flowers would be a great backdrop to the cake table. These were used in another adorable baby shower inspiration board over at The Party Dress. 7) I’m in love with these paper straws! These were featured on Style Me Pretty.

Monday Menu Madness: Farmer’s Market Frenzy

If you saw Saturday’s post then you know how much I LOVE the Farmer’s Market and the opportunities for parties that come with it.  So, today’s menu features my recipe for a delicious dinner party meal using things that are in season RIGHT NOW! I used a grill for this meal but a broiler would also work just fine.

Wouldn’t this be a beautiful dish to set in front of people at a dinner party? It would be great served individually or family style.

-Tuna (We used one big tuna steak for 2 people and it was more than enough)
-1 large tomato (we used beefsteak)
-1 lemon
-rice (we used short grain but any will do)
-sea salt, pepper, olive oil
-optional wine (we used Chardonnay)
-salad greens (not pictured)

Directions:  1. Prep the asparagus by washing and then cutting off the ends (cut to just where the white ends and the beautiful green color begins) 2. Cut the tomatoes in wedges– if you are using smaller tomatoes just cut in half 3. Put the asparagus and tomatoes in a bowl and squeeze the juice of 1 half of the lemon (then throw the lemon in the bowl) 4. toss in a couple of teaspoons of sea salt 5. drizzle olive oil over the vegetables (about 2 tablespoons) 5. grind pepper onto the vegetables (about 6 twists)

Directions: 1. Prep rice in rice maker (use rice cooker directions). You will end up needing about 1/2 a cup of cooked rice per person 2. Start the rice (if you do not have a rice cooker then just follow the directions on the rice package to cook the rice. 3. Season tuna with the juice of half a lemon and olive oil. Put the lemon half in the bowl with the vegetables. 4. Heat grill to a high even heat (my grill is electric so it just meant turning a knob– if you have charcoal you might want to do this step earlier.

Grilling Directions: 1. Start grilling the tuna. If you want the tuna to be cooked through then cook 4-5 minutes per side on high heat. If you prefer a seared tuna then cook 1-2 minutes on a very high heat per side. 2. After about 3 minutes turn the tuna 90 degrees to get the beautiful sear marks. At this time also put the vegetables on the grill. 3. At five minutes turn the fish over and rotate the vegetables. 4. Turn the fish 90 degrees at the 8 minute mark. The tomatoes will be finished before the asparagus. Once they are softened a bit take them off the grill. If you want the lemons to have the nice charred face then put them face down on the grill. 5. Take everything off the grill at the 10 minute mark. Cut the fish into serving sizes and plate.

Want to make a delicious appetizer instead? This dish can be served as a first course to a menu with an Asian flair. Or, if you make several, they’d be great for passed Hors D’Oeuvres.

Prep the vegetables and tuna the same as the recipe above. For this recipe you will also need Nori (a seeweed paper used in sushi) and soy sauce.
1) wrap the rice in the nori (you really need to use the short grain rice for this appetizer) 2) slice the wrapped rice into 1/2 inch or smaller slices 3) top the wrapped rice with the grilled tomato 3) slice into the asparagus making equal sized portions. Using two portions make an X on top of the tomato 4) add a cube of salmon and place the entire portion on top of a bed of soy sauce


Oh, and the optional wine? That is for drinking! I’d suggest a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc to pair with the grilled goodness of the tuna. Enjoy!

Happy Mother’s Day!

I am lucky to have three wonderful women in my life that I can call mom. All three inspire me by the lives they’ve led, the people they love and the parties they’ve thrown. So, this party inspiration post is dedicated to these lovely women and the people in their lives that support them (that means you dad, grandpa, T, father-in-law E and the rest of my lovely family!)

Let me introduce you to these wonderful women.

In the upper left corner is my mom. (She doesn’t look like me at all does she?) Just below her picture is my grandmother. And, pictured in the lower, right-hand corner is my mother-in-law.

Each one of them has helped developed my love of parties and my ability to execute fun-filled events. One event from each of these women that really inspired me includes:

My Mom
My mom loved to throw parties while I was growing up. She enjoyed the details, the crafts and the fun. She often had champagne tastes on a kool-aid budget and always made it work.
The party: One party I remember distinctly is a Halloween party she threw for me, my sister and brothers, as well as several families from the neighborhood. Everyone was in costume. Everyone played games. And everyone got a sack full of goodies to remember the party by when they left.
How this shaped my party philosophy: 1. Encourage costumes or certain attire for some of your more special parties. Wearing a costume or a certain type of attire helps people get into the party and anticipate it well before the party begins. It will also help people feel more at ease in the “theme” of the party. 2. Send people home with something to remember the evening– make the event live on and on. Even if the favor is a 4X6 photo sent in the mail a week later… the guests will always remember the event when they look at that photo, trinket, etc.

My Grandma
My Grandmother often tells me how she thinks the things I do with parties are so amazing and impossible to do. What she doesn’t know is I probably would never have wanted to throw a party if it wasn’t for her.
The party: Every year growing up Christmas Eve was my grandmother’s night. She decorated the house for weeks and hung stockings for everyone in the family by the chimney with care. The tree was always filled with gifts that everyone brought over that night. People would randomly break out in carols or the kids would act out a Christmas play. We looked forward to this night every year.
How this shaped my party philosophy: Parties are so much more than a group of people getting together to celebrate. They can be an EVENT. They can be TRADITION. They can be a bright spot in a dreary week. My grandmother taught me the importance of meaning in a party. Personalize it to your guests and put yourself into the party.

My Mother-in-Law
My mother-in-law is a practical, organized and hard-working woman. She is always the one to come through with thoughtful actions–driving 12 people the 2 hours to the coast because she is the safest driver, staying up and cleaning the kitchen after a night of cooking, sending notes of well-wishes every holiday and birthday.
The party: I didn’t know what to expect for my rehearsal dinner the night before I got married. But, walking into the venue I saw the effort and details that my mother-in-law had put in place to make our rehearsal dinner just as memorable as our wedding. My husband’s family live in Japan and my mother-in-law put so much of that culture into this beautiful party. She cooked traditional Japanese food and brought us traditional kimonos to wear throughout the evening.
How this shaped my party philosophy: Parties are fabulous gifts. Putting the effort into making a memorable and personal party can be one of the best gifts you can ever give someone. Instead of giving a sweater–give a memory, it will last a life-time.

Thank you to the wonderful women that help shape my life. Happy Mother’s Day!

Party Inspiration: Farmer’s Markets

It is Farmer’s Market season and I couldn’t be more excited. If you have never eaten local, in-season, organic produce then I might venture to say you have not lived. So, get living! Find a local farmer’s market and enjoy the sites, sounds and tastes of a completely local experience. Hey, and while you are at it, why not throw a party?
The colors of the farmer’s market alone can inspire a party. But, I found a few things to really get the party planner in you inspired to throw an affordable event that will stimulate the local economy as well as your friends love for great foods.

I’ve put a few links to iDiY’s tutorial on throwing together beautiful arrangements with super market flowers. Why not use the same skills with gorgeous local flowers?

Here are my top three uses for Farmer’s Market Flowers in a party:
1. Decorations! Put them in a vase in the middle of a Sunday morning brunch with friends or throw them in the bathroom to spruce up the place.
2. Party Favors!  Give individual bouquets to guests or splurge a little and buy individual potted plants so the gift can keep giving all season long.
3. Activities! Throw a flower arranging party. Group like flowers in vases in the middle of a long table that is draped in butcher paper. Put flower arranging supplies at each guest’s spot at the table. Have small vases ready for guest to arrange their flowers in– it will double as the guest’s party favor.

The options are endless… the gorgeous food and beverages that I find at the Farmer’s Market never fail to inspire me to cook something delicious to share with friends or family.

Here are my top three uses for Farmer’s Market Foods in a party:
1. Potluck! I grew up Baptist… I love a good potluck. Inspire your friends to also shop locally by throwing a “Farmer’s Market Potluck.” Everyone attending the party must bring a dish created from the in-season foods found at the Farmer’s Market. Decorate the place with a “farm” theme and those beautiful flowers that you got while at the market and your set for a delicious and fun dinner.
2. Summer Barbecue! No growth hormones, well-treated and fed cows make the most AMAZING steaks. (If you are a vegetarian, try grilling asparagus- it is also very tasty.) But, seriously, if you haven’t spent the extra money to get a piece of meat that is not treated, enhanced and basically grown for you in a lab- please do. It is worth every penny. Throw some good meat and veggies on the grill. Pop open a beer or soda. Make a pitcher of sangria. Any time the grill is on the party is on as well.
3. Cook Off! Have the best two cooks you know show you some culinary skills by having a cook-off with farmer’s market goodies. -OR- Split friends up in teams and send both teams to the market with the same amount of money. The team that comes up with the best dish wins a culinary prize–don’t forget to share the recipes!

All of the images above were taken by yours truly with my tiny point and shoot camera. They were also all taken at MY local farmer’s market: The Beaverton Farmer’s Market. If you live in the Portland, OR area then I HIGHLY suggest you visit this fantastic farmer’s market–open Saturdays!

Questions for my Readers: Where is your favorite farmer’s market? What party would you throw with farmer’s market finds?

Friday’s Finds: A Fantastic Project Blog

Today’s Friday Find comes from the blogsphere. I came across (Edit: Now A Subtle Revelry) from some of the beautiful party images featured on other entertaining blogs. But, the thing that really caught my eye? On the site they have a project blog called 30X30: “From Inspiration through design- 30 parties this year before I turn 30. Each filled with homemade details for easy and frugal gatherings.”

Not only do I love the idea, but also the execution. The parties, she has blogged six so far, are magnificent. The details are fantastic. My favorite part? The DIY. She has several posts with do it yourself projects that are beautifully photographed and excellently explained. Check out the blog and follow her, as I will, as she continues her goal of 30 parties this year.

My hope? The last party is an all-out bash of a 30th birthday party!

Photo Sources from left clockwise: Mother’s Day Brunch; Roast & Toast ; Pinwheels & Pearls Party

Real Party: A Childhood Birthday Revisited

Our friend Ryan wanted to celebrate his birthday in the same way he got to celebrate birthdays when he was a kid.  He wanted bright colors, fun games, build your own foods and root beer floats. So, we had bright colored balloons and streamers all over our apartment. We played board games and Pin the Toupee on Ryan. Enjoy the photos of my first posted “Real Party”.

From left clockwise: We turned our dining room into a large photo booth filled with fun props. The Chip & Dip bar started the evening off with fun build-your-own snacks. One table was topped with an assortment of games and a box full of great kid appropriate prizes including: PEZ Dispinsers, Whoopie Cushions and Lego sets. Even the bathroom got the bright colored treatment.

From Left Clockwise: Root beer floats were made a little bit more adult with the addition of root beer schnapps or the ever popular Stout Shake. Ryan got to hold his bald counterpart while people attempted to pin a toupee on him. I can’t have a party without a banner! More Pin the Toupee fun. Balloons hung from the ceiling and covered the floor!

Quick Inspiration for Cinco De Mayo!

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, and that’s a perfect excuse to throw together a fun, weekday party. Who can say no to endless chips, salsa and margaritas? Have no idea what to do for tomorrow? Here are a few inspiration boards to help get your brain kicking. Throw together some decorations with bright colored tissue and use all of the bright colors you have in your home to make a great last-minute Cinco De Mayo celebration.

Sources:  Tissue decorations via Martha; Decorations used in a summer celebration featured on Design Sponge ; Bright colored maxi-dresses are perfect for a fiesta; a tasty treat featured in Martha Stewart’s now defunct magazine Blue Print; Margarita Cupcakes are a nice break from traditional foods from a fiesta; bright plates and tablecloths from Anthropologie makes me just want to have a party

As I’ve said before, Martha is the Queen of All Good Things… but, did you know that she is also the go to person for a GREAT drink recipe? Just check out these recipes for Margaritas!
Margaritas from left to right: Guava Margaritas;  Pink Grapefruit Margaritas; Strawberry Margarita; Traditional Margarita; Coconut Margaritas; Paloma Coolers

If you just want a little taste of Mexico this Cinco De Mayo, please try “The Best Tecate Ever”. My favorite Mexican food restaurant serves something very similar to this tasty concoction.
First, frost up a glass in the freezer– it needs to be VERY frosted. Second, use half a lime to rim the glasses and squeeze the rest of the juice into the glass. Just drop the half into the glass. Next, fill the frosted mug with Tecate and drink it in!


Monday Menu Madness: Mother’s Day

When I think of Mother’s Day I think of breakfast in bed. I think of pampering mom by letting her sleep in and be treated to a delicious, decadent breakfast whilst surrounded by cozy blankets with sunshine streaming in on her from the open window.

While most likely this won’t happen, why not give it a try and let mom have a few fantastic morning moments on her day.

Below are some sample menus and links for recipes that I think make up a great Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed:

“Mom”osas and Eggs in a Basket: Eggs in a Basket, Toad in a Hole, Egg in a Hole… many names but not so many breakfasts are quite this cute. 1. Eggs in a Basket recipe from the queen of good things Ms. Martha Stewart 2. “Mom”osas, or Mimosas rather, give mom a nutritious gulp of orange juice along with bubbly goodness 3. Don’t forget the flowers this Mother’s Day! This daffodil bouquet, from Paper-Source, she can keep forever.

Hot Mama Breakfast in Bed: Treat mom to a quick flash back to college days with a sophisticated pizza in bed and a simple, spicy Bloody Mary. 1) A delicious looking breakfast pizza with Italian sausage on Ciabatta bread would be a tasty start to a morning. 2) Pair it with a quick green salad–some great tips on how to make a good salad at The Stone Soup blog 3) a Bloody Mary with a kick will get mom ready for her day 4) Lastly, grab a few bunches of flowers at the supermarket and throw together a lovely bouquet for mom via iDIY.

I Love You a Latte Breakfast in Bed: What mom wouldn’t enjoy a breakfast of heart pancakes and a great latte? 1) Martha gives tips on how to make these great looking heart pancakes 2) I think a well-made latte is probably one of the closest ways to near euphoria for me. Show mom the love. 3) Does that bouquet look like it originated from a supermarket? Those diy gurus over at iDIY show you how to do it.

A Sweet Treat Breakfast in Bed: A quick decadent treat for mom starts with 1) amazing homemade donuts and 2) The most amazing recipe for chocolate milk all from the Pioneer Woman

Don’t live near mom? Show her some love through the mail. These great baskets will let her have a great breakfast on her day even if you live across the continent. 1) The adorable tray from Wine Country Gift Baskets would make breakfast in bed a complete treat 2) This basket from amazon comes with waffle mix and chocolate 3) a great gift basket from Gourmet Gift Baskets 4) Really treat mom with this Dean and DeLuca basket with coffee and pure maple syrup

Just a taste

I hosted a party for a friend tonight with the help of a great gang of food and drink bearing friends. The birthday boy (no longer a boy at 38) wanted to relive the past a bit by having a party that reminded him of birthday parties when he was a kid. So, we went all out with a ton of bright colored balloons, build your own foods and great party games. That real party will be posted soon but I thought I’d give you a taste of what is to come.

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