Calling all HamilFans! Hamilton Party Ideas

If you are a fan of the mega-hit musical, “Hamilton,” I already KNOW you are super excited for the July 3rd release of the original Broadway production on Disney+. And if you’re a bit of a nerd like me, you’ve got all the lyrical puns cycling through your head: “I’m willing to wait for it!” “It’s only a matter of time…” “Just you wait!” “This’ll be the room where it happened,” and more.

Maybe you’ve never seen the show, but you love the soundtrack and can’t wait to see it for the first time, from the comfort of your living room. Maybe you’ve never heard the music at all, but you’ve always wanted to see it. Maybe you have heard of the show, but haven’t really gotten into it. And maybe, just maybe, you’ve never heard of this Broadway show at all.

You Should Absolutely Watch “Hamilton”

Regardless of which of the above groups you fall into, if you have any interest in watching it, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you do! It’s scheduled to be released at midnight Pacific Time / 3am Eastern Time in the USA, early Friday morning, so you can watch it anytime after that. (Don’t need to be convinced? Skip ahead to the party ideas under “Ready to Celebrate?!”)

Low cost: The Disney+ streaming service is available for a mere $6.99 a month, so even if you only watch “Hamilton” once (or three hundred times) and then cancel, it’s an incredible price! There’s also a ton of other great content on there, and it’s all available with your monthly or annual subscription.

High production quality: I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda, the mastermind behind the show’s story, music, and lyrics, on “Good Morning America” recently, talking about how they filmed the stage show performance over the course of just three days back in June 2016. So, the film is the actual show, with the original Broadway cast–something many people have never had the chance to see. It’s a pro-shoot, with closeup shots and, as Lin says, “all the coverage you would want to get in a movie.” It is going to be an incredible treat for sure!

Incredible show: I could seriously go on and on and on about this show, but to keep it brief I’ll say it has moved me more than any other show I’ve ever seen. I cried a few dozen times when I first saw it (admittedly, I’m a sap when it comes to compelling, moving storytelling ;)). The music, the story, the characters, the choreography, the lighting, the costumes… all of it is just so incredible and so well-done, you’ll understand when you see it why it is one of the most popular and successful musicals of all time.

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Such. A. Great. SHOW!

Don’t like musicals? You may still love this, it’s a super fresh take on musical theater. Not interested in U.S. history? This show will likely have you completely engaged in its telling of the American Revolution, US Constitution, “founding fathers,” and more. Not interested in seeing an all-white cast on stage? You’re in luck: the show intentionally uses color-conscious casting, so you’ll see a black man portray George Washington, an Asian American woman play Alexander Hamilton’s wife, a Puerto Rican man play Alexander, and more. Not a huge fan of hip-hop? Neither is my mom, and she loves this show and the music. I’m guessing you will, too.

Basically, for any reason you think might make you not like the show, my hunch is that the way it all comes together will have you mesmerized and totally engrossed in it. Still not sold? Check out this awesome teaser-trailer for the film.

What about kids? If you are a parent, you may not be sure if you want your younger kids to watch the show, and I totally get that. (The film is rated PG-13 by the MPAA.) To help you decide, check out the Parents’ Guide I created. I’ll also add that I don’t let my 5 and 8 year old kids watch anything PG-13, but my husband and I did take them to see the show over Christmas last year, and they absolutely loved it.

The Parents’ Guide includes a description of content and language throughout the show that some parents may feel is inappropriate for their kids, as well as some tips on how we personally approached some of the more mature content with our own kids. If you’re not familiar with the show or songs, be sure to grab it and save yourself some time!

Hamilton 2019 2 pics

Ready to Celebrate?!

So… are you excited?! Thinking about having a socially-distant party with your roommates, family, or quarantine partners to celebrate the film’s release? We’ve got you covered! Check out some of our favorite food, decor, and activity ideas below. Want more? Take a look at our Hamilton Party Pinterest board, where we’ve got dozens of ideas you can use for a small gathering, a virtual celebration, or a future in-person birthday party!

Food

There are SO MANY ways you can have fun with food for a Hamilton viewing party. If you’re familiar with the soundtrack, one of the easiest ways to have fun is by naming the food dishes after songs and lyrics from the show. A few of my favorites are below, including a few that we used for a friend’s surprise work anniversary celebration last summer.
Social distance tip: Gathering virtually? Share some fun food ideas with everyone so they have some options go all out or keep it super simple if they prefer.

Ham Food - ham and fruit
32,000 Fruit in New York Harbor / A. Ham (& Cheese)
Ham Food - coconut-smores-cookieshot
Winter’s Ball (Coconut Balls), DeepRootsAtHome / Talk Less, Smile S’mores Parfait, KraftHeinz / Not Throwin’ Away My Cookie Shot, PopSugar (I mean…how awesome is that?!)

Need more inspiration? Here you go! Bonus: we’ve got recipes for most of the ideas below pinned on our Pinterest board so it’s all in one place for you.

  • A. Ham and Cheese platter, sandwiches, or croissants (platter pictured above)
  • Aaron Burr-gers, Sir
  • Guns and Chips (you can add “With SalsaDip on the Side,” but that reference to “Washington On Your Side” might be too big of a leap?)
  • Non-Stop Popcorn
  • Satisfy-ing ______ (we used this for brownies, but any yummy dish or treat works!)
  • Satis-fries
  • Washington on Your Side Salad
  • My Dearest Angelica Cake
  • 32,000 Fruit in New York Harbor (fruit bowl/plate/kebabs) (pictured above)
  • We Have Resorted to Eating Our… Veggies (or Beans, or anything you think is funny)
  • Meaty Inside, or Meat Is Inside (for a meat-filled empanada, ravioli, hand pie, etc.)
  • What Comes Next?, or “Awesome. Wow.” or Can’t Say No to This (for dessert)
  • You’ll Be Back…for More, or You’ll Be (Baby) Back Ribs
  • 10 Duel Condiments
  • It Must Be Rice
  • Winter’s Ball coconut balls (pictured above)
  • Talk Less, Smile S’mores (fun parfait pictured above)
  • Not Throwin’ Away My Shot (you could go so many directions with this: Jell-O shots, pudding shots, or a cookie shot, pictured above! Check out this cool pan to make them even easier)
  • Next to Washington, They All Look Small (this would be fun to use for any mini-type of food, like sliders, mini pizzas, silver dollar pancakes if you’re having a morning party, mini cookies, petit fours, mini quiches… you get the idea)

Putting a snack out during intermission? You can have a cute little food tent or sign that says “Take a Break”! You can even make a little sign to put near the plates that says “Plate for It, Plate for It”.

More Themed Ideas: You can make your food dishes Independence Day-themed or red-white-and-blue and still do a play on words with Hamilton song lyrics and titles.

Or you could go all out and serve Colonial-era foods, so that you’re eating the same kinds of things Hamilton and his pals would have eaten at the end of the 18th century in the United States. Check out some ideas here, but be warned: they may not be the most flavorful! Think cornmeal mush, porridge, meat pies, pickles, and bread.

Or, if you have a star-shaped cookie cutter handy (or a few), you can keep it super simple and make lots of star-shaped foods. Think cookies, sandwiches, sliced cheese, pizza, fruit, brownies, practically anything!

star cookies- cookingchanneltv - zoe francois
Decorate with yellow icing for an easy “HamilTake” on these star cookies! Photo from cookingchanneltv

Drinks: There are several fun drinks you can have if it’s an adult party with alcoholic beverages. Here are a few:

  • I May Have Punched Him, It’s a Blur, Sir (this could of course be non-alcoholic)
  • In the Eye of a Hurricane
  • History is Happenin’ in Manhattan
  • Sam Adams (bonus if it’s served in a pint glass)
  • Dear Theambrosia

Of course, serving tea, milk, beer, ale, cider, whiskey, or Scotch Whiskey would all work for the time period of the show.

Cake: If you enjoy making cakes or cupcakes, there are lots of fun Hamilton-themed designs you could do. The simplest would probably be yellow-gold frosted cupcakes with a DIY cake topper of the star logo. If you’ve worked with fondant before, the possibilities are endless. Check out our Pinterest board for some inspiration. My personal favorite is this Schuyler sisters one from Theresa’s Bakery.

Ham cake - theresasbakery (1)

But if you’re not comfortable working with fondant, my talented friend Lauren used spray icing (like this) and a DIY cardstock stencil she made to create the awesome cake for our friend’s work anniversary.

Hamilton Cake

Tips on this method from Lauren:

  • Stay as close to the stencil as possible, or cover what you don’t want sprayed. Otherwise, the mist will go past the edges of your card stock and create an unwanted rectangular stencil around the design on your cake.
  • We got the base cake from our local bakery, who did a great job creating the gold textured icing and black borders. Due to licensing restrictions, they weren’t allowed to create a Hamilton design, which is why we went the partial-DIY route.

Decor

As with any party, but especially with a virtual or socially-distant party with a limited number of guests, you can go all out with decorations or keep it simple. For my friend’s work party, we were on a budget and had a lot of tables in the room, so we kept it pretty simple. We used black craft paper cut to size for the table covering (see similar here), glittery gold stars (here), gold paper plates (here), and gold napkins (here).

One decor item we created that was easy to make were trifold centerpieces with different quotes from the show on each side. They were all different, and they really added so much to the tables. We printed them on 11″ x 17″ paper, which was a good size for our tables, but you could do them in any size. Then we folded the paper into thirds and taped the edges together. Done!
Social distance tip: Having a virtual party? Make these and send the file ahead of time to whoever is joining the party so they can print one out themselves!

Hamilton - trifold centerpiece

We also printed out more quotes and some still images from the show to hang up around the room, and my talented friend Michelle created this awesome banner. Obviously, you may not be throwing a “congratulations” party, but you could create something similar for a viewing party. A banner that says “Hamilton,” “The Room Where It Happens,” or your favorite quote or song title would work great if you don’t have a guest of honor.

Congrats banner
You could obviously make a banner that says anything you want (FYI, I blocked out my friend’s face on the sign above the banner… it wasn’t originally a blank square, haha ;)) 

Want more decor? You could use gold and black balloons. For an eco-friendly, reusable option, you could use collapsable Chinese lanterns, like these! I personally have them in a whole rainbow of colors; they are a go-to of mine for practically every party.

chinese lanterns
Chinese lanterns are a great alternative to balloons! (Product and photo found on Amazon)

 

Activities

If you’re having a viewing party, and keeping it simple, you probably don’t need any activities to entertain your fellow party-goers. But if you’re looking for some fun ideas for before or after the film, or during intermission, here are a few.
Social distance tip: All of these activities can easily be done virtually, too–just let everyone know what to have on hand or what to prepare ahead of time.

  • Not Throwin’ Away My Shot – have a “Minute-to-Win-It” inspired toss game, where you have to throw marshmallows, jelly beans, etc. into a cup
  • Pin the Comma After Dearest – like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” but players have to pin (or stick) a comma after the word “dearest” on a sign that says “My Dearest Angelica”. Print or draw enough commas for everyone on label/sticker paper and cut them out. Hang the sign on the wall. Players are blindfolded, spin around, and have to make their way to the sign and hope they stick the comma in the right spot. To spruce up the poster, add an image of Angelica (or Angelica and Alexander) to it.
Angelica ((C) Joan Marcus)
Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica. © Joan Marcus. Found on TheaterMania.
  • Blow Us All Away – Have everyone take a bottle of bubbles, and head outdoors for some fun! Or play this “Minute-to-Win-It” inspired competitive game, where players blow marshmallows across a line on a table using only a straw.
  • Fun With Lyrics – play “complete the lyric” or “name that song” by having people pull a strip of pre-printed paper out of a bowl. (If you’re doing this virtually, you could read them aloud or have them on a file you can share on the video call screen.) Depending on how you want to play, the paper either has partial lyrics with some words missing that the person has to try to fill in verbally, or it’s an obscure lyric and the first person to name the song it’s from gets a point.
    • TIP: To save yourself from having to do all the work, you can ask guests to submit three each a day or so before the party.
  • Write Your Own Rap – Depending on your guests’ willingness to get creative, if they’re fans of the show and familiar with the music you could ask everyone to rewrite Hamilton’s rebuttal in “Farmer Refuted” before the party. Or they could write a new song or a new response to any song from the show, from the perspective of one of the characters.
  • Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? – This is a sentimental activity. Again, depending on your guests, how well they know each other, and how many people are invited, you could have each person write one line or thought about each of the other guests. This could be especially sweet among a family or close group of friends. If you want to put in a bit of extra effort, you could collect or capture all of the lines people shared and send each person the lines that were shared about them.

Pssst. Here’s a great resource with all of the song lyrics from the show to help you with some of these activities.

hamilton-star-logo-bright

Keeping it Safe

  • Video chat/FaceTime while watching (Be sure to press “play” at the same time! Also just a note, I haven’t personally had much success with this approach, because of the duplication of the sound from the film, coming in from everyone on the call.)
  • Group text chat while watching
  • Outdoor viewing party to keep social distance
  • Watch at the same time, then have a group call or video chat to talk about it afterward
  • Have everyone make a few fun food items they’ll be enjoying at their own homes; everyone can share pics of what they’re eating
  • Physically in person with people who don’t reside in your home? Be sure not to share serving utensils. Have food pre-set in small, individual serving-size dishes or cups. Have plenty of hand sanitizer on hand, and be sure to remind people to keep 6 feet apart and wear masks except when eating.
IMG_9122 3
Recent socially distant get together with friends

I hope these ideas sparked some party excitement for you as you plan your Hamilton party. I know I’m super excited to see it on Disney+ on July 3rd with my family! And I have at least one friend who will be watching it (for the very first time!) at the same we do, so we can chat all about it afterward. I can’t wait!

What other fun ideas do you have for a Hamilton party? I’d love to hear about them!

Celebrating a Birthday at Home: Having Fun While Social Distancing

It’s April. Can you believe it?! April has always been my favorite month, simply because it’s my BIRTHDAY month. I love my birthday. I always say it’s my second favorite holiday (behind Christmas, although Halloween runs a really tight race for second). It’s maybe a little self-absorbed to love a day simply because it’s MY special day, but it’s the truth, I do.

Maybe you have the same deep affection for your birthday as I do. Maybe you actually don’t AT ALL, but someone important in your life does. So, if you or someone you love is feeling a little bummed about not being able to celebrate a birthday (or anniversary, or any special day!) by getting together with friends and family due to the coronavirus/social distancing/quarantine, we have some ideas for you!

Side note: As an introvert whose then-boyfriend-now-husband had to work many New Year’s Eves, I often celebrated the evening by eating popcorn, drinking sparkling wine, and watching “General Hospital.” In my room, in my apartment, by myself. And it was truly blissful! So, for my fellow introverts, even if getting a bunch of people together is never on your birthday wishlist, I hope that you still find a way to celebrate your special day in a way that’s meaningful for you. Some of our ideas below may be exactly up your isolated alley.

Make it fancy, festive, friendly, or fun… just make it fabulously yours!

Make it Fancy

Glam Oscars Night
Our family’s glam celebration at home

Do you love to get fancy? Glam it up? Get all dressed up to go out? Well, you can still do that without leaving your home! Some ideas:

  • Dress up in black tie or cocktail attire (if you’re having a kid-friendly celebration, let them get in on the fun too)
  • DIY fancy food – cute little appetizers (Pinterest is always a great source of inspiration if you’re not sure what to make), a cheese board, homemade cupcakes. Never baked a layer-cake before? This could be a fun time to give it a whirl!
  • If you’re looking to step it up a notch to make this birthday extra-special, you could order fancy food from a favorite restaurant or an upscale one you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Order a cake, donuts, or cupcakes from a local bakery (YES, they may still be open and offering delivery or curbside pickup)
  • Eat by candlelight
  • Set the mood with some elegant music
  • Enjoy a celebratory beverage – fancy it up by adding an appropriate garnish or drinking it from your fanciest glassware

 

Some fancy food inspiration – sparkling wine, gourmet donuts with a fancy candelabra topper, and a gorgeous cake! (Cake photo by FondantFlinger.)

 

Make it Festive

Want to decorate and feel like you’re having a big-to-do, even if the only guests will be yourself, your roommates, or your family members who live with you? There are so many ways to make your birthday festive:

  • Put up some fun lights – Do you have those cute little fairy lights? Christmas lights? Outdoor mini-lantern lights you’ve never put up yet? (Maybe that last one’s just me?) Put them up in whatever room you want to celebrate in.
  • Play your favorite music from a Spotify or iTunes playlist, or if you want to be surprised, have your Amazon Alexa or Google Home play whatever type of music makes your heart happy. My go to: “Alex, play dance music.”
  • Wear a party outfit – maybe that’s something sparkly, or a fun dress, a handsome dress shirt and (fun?) necktie, or a shirt or outfit you just look and feel great in. You can add a birthday sash, or a classic birthday hat (you could even DIY one out of paper, cardstock, or felt, and twine, ribbon, or bobby pins to secure it, or really whatever you have on hand). Or if you’re a little bit extra like me, take it a step further and wear a tiara or crown.
  • DIY birthday decorations – we had fun making our birthday wreath a few years ago, and now we hang it up for the whole week whenever it’s someone’s birthday at our house. If you like crafting and have a surplus of tissue paper on hand, you can easily make some of these adorable tissue pom pom balls {we used this tutorial for ours below}, or you can buy them.
  • Have a bar crawl or an around the world tasting party – you can set up a different fun, adult (or non-adult) beverage in various rooms throughout your home, or sample foods from around the world as you travel from room to room. You could even play a new uniquely themed song as you arrive at each destination… the possibilities are endless. (I’m actually getting very excited about this idea as I write it… we may do it ourselves in the next few weeks!)

Make it Friendly

For most of you extroverts out there, I know it means a lot to you to connect with people, and that you really get your energy from the people around you. So that makes social distancing extra tough. And while you can’t be physically in the same space with your friends and family, you can still have them join you {virtually} in your celebration! Of course, any of the ideas above could also include a FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Hangout multi-person video call with your peeps. But there are many other ways to include them in your big day, too. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Have a game night – you can try a traditional roll-the-dice game, or a party game like Apples to Apples, Charades, Pictionary, Scattegories, or many other options that would work virtually. You can host a trivia night. Or, you can go with a virtual party game option, like the ones from Jackbox – they range from drawing, to bluffing, to trivia, and more! They’re relatively inexpensive, and only one person has to buy a game in order to play it with friends. Everyone uses their smart phone, tablet, or laptop to play. For more details and even more ideas for game night, check out this article from the LA Times.
  • Have a dance party, dance-off, or learn a dance together – get your friends and family together on a video call and play some fun music. You can have one person play the music, or, if you want to make sure everyone can hear the music equally clearly, you may want to try what we’ve done: use Amazon Alexa, iTunes, Spotify, or whatever you use to play your music, and after each song you decide which song is next (we take turns deciding) and do a mini countdown (“3, 2, 1”) so that you all start the song in your own homes at relatively the same time. You could add more fun with a dance-off contest, or you could take a totally different route and all learn a TikTok dance together for lots of laughs and synchronized skill building! (Check out this list of top TikTok dances for some inspo, and this one too – just beware that some of the dances are a little bit PG-13.)
  • Karaoke night – everyone can take turns individually, or you can pair up! Just search “karaoke version of ________” (your song of choice) and sing along. Tip: If you’re pairing up to sing a song with someone in a different location, be sure you both press “play” at the same time so you’re in sync.
  • Dine together – if you’re having a dinner party or meal together virtually, let your friends know ahead of time what you’ll be eating in case they want to share in the same type of cuisine. You could have taco night, pizza night, steak on the grill, whatever makes you happy! Or ask them all to have their favorite dessert in front of them when they sing “Happy Birthday” to you.

Make it Fun

Maybe you have a child who’s missing out on that big birthday party you had originally planned to have for them. There are several ways you can help make it special, in addition to pulling from the ideas above, here are a few more:

  • Make an at-home treasure hunt for them – have them follow clues that lead, one after another, to a birthday gift or to their cake
  • Ask their friends’ parents to drive by your home in a car parade – give them a specific time and a starting location, so that they can all caravan together. They can have signs, noise makers, balloons, or just wave and shout “happy birthday” out the window as they pass by.
  • Have a dance party with just your family, or have some of your child’s friends join in on the fun through a video call
  • Ask their friends to send birthday video messages to surprise them throughout the day
  • Have them help you bake or decorate their birthday dessert, or print out some cute cupcake wrappers to add a little extra flair
  • Host a Facebook or Instagram Live video of your baby’s cake smash, or have a video camera running while you host a Zoom call or FaceTime so your baby can see everyone and they can all sing “happy birthday” to the little one
  • A friend of mine is going to set up the party decorations she had already planned for her daughter’s first birthday party, and they are going to make a time capsule video explaining why no one was at their house for her party
  • I’ve scheduled two different dates for my daughter’s 8th birthday party – since it’s not at our house this year, we needed to book the location, but with all the uncertainty right now about when things will start to return to normal, we wanted to have a backup date, too (for 2 months later). And we let her know that we just may not be able to have the party she wants this year, but that we will definitely do something fun to celebrate no matter what!

Make it Fabulously Yours!

Whatever you do for your birthday, make sure it’s what you want to do – don’t feel pressure to do a lot if you want it to be low-key, and don’t feel like you have to downplay it just because everyone is staying safe at home.

For me personally? I’m going to have a mini-spa day at home in the morning with a DIY facial mask I’ve always wanted to try but haven’t opened yet, roping one of my kids or my husband into giving me a mini-massage, all while lovely relaxing spa music plays in the house. Then I’m going to give myself a mani-pedi. In the afternoon, I’ll do pretty much whatever I want, which will likely be playing games and/or watching a movie with my family.

I’ll be celebrating throughout the entire day with an assortment of decadent chocolate treats (think: chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, chocolate pudding or a chocolate smoothie with lunch, chocolate pasta we picked up at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago for dinner). Then I’ll have several chocolate desserts available to enjoy in the evening: 2 different brownies (one that’s healthy but not-yet-tried, and one classic and not-at-all-healthy as a backup), either chocolate fudge or a chocolate cake, and chocolate chip cookies. And sparkling wine. Yes, it’s a bit indulgent. But that’s how I like my birthday, so that’s what we’ll be doing.

After the kids go to bed, we’re going to have a virtual game night with two of our good friends and my family in Chicago. Together. We’ve already participated in two virtual game nights, but this is the first time our good friends will be playing competitive games with my very-competitive family-of-origin, so we’ll see how it goes! I’m so grateful that I get to celebrate with all of them, and no matter what happens, I know this virtual birthday will be one I’ll always remember… so I plan to make it a great one. And I hope you do, too!

AB bday


What do you think? What other ideas do you have for celebrating a birthday or other big celebration while we are all keeping up this social distancing? I’d love to hear your ideas –drop a note in the Comments below! For even more ideas, check out our Pinterest board!

10 Ways to Maintain a Positive Outlook

In this crazy time, where there’s a lot of uncertainty, and perhaps a lot of time to ourselves with “social distancing,” we want to help alleviate some of the uneasiness you may be feeling. So we’ve rounded up 10 great tips–all things you can do today, right now!–to help you re-center yourself, take control of the things you can, and maintain (or regain) a positive mindset to help you get through this and future challenges you may face.

Stay safe, be careful out there, and be sure to continue celebrating life and injecting fun wherever possible!

Ten Ways to Maintain Positivity and Regain Control

  1. Move your body – it can improve your mood and help combat anxiety. If you haven’t experience the magical impact that going for a walk or run, jumping around, or dancing it out can have on lifting your mood and mindset, try it out! For some uninhibited inspiration, check out my launch day crazy dance party with my kiddos last fall:

    Launch Day Dance Party
    dance party silliness
  2. Consume positivity – curate the media you consume by a) not over-consuming the news, and b) making sure you’re reading, listening to, and watching messages of positivity. I love Instagram for this, and TikTok has been keeping a lot of my friends entertained and happy. Check out a few of my personal favorite go-to sources of positivity on Instagram:

    ohjoytanksgoodnewsbritsketch, msrachelhollisdisneybunch, christopherjacobchandler

  3. Get outside – soak up some sunshine, even if it’s hiding behind clouds! Connecting with nature is proven to positively impact our mood. Even just standing outside your home and getting fresh air can help.
  4. Focus on gratitude – If you don’t already have a daily gratitude practice, I highly recommend it. Each day, write down 3-5 small things you are grateful for in a journal. Our family takes a few minutes at dinner time each night to share what we are grateful for.
  5. Eat healthy & drink lots of water – I know, it can be so easy to chow down on not-so-healthy snacks, but make sure you are getting your veggies and protein in to take care of your body.
  6. Meditate – Take a few minutes to just calm your mind, whether it’s a simple breathing exercise listening to some guided meditation, sitting for a few moments in positive prayer, or taking a long bubble bath–whatever relaxes you and nourishes your soul.and breathe
  7. Listen to uplifting music – whatever makes you happy!
  8. Be silly – Play, have fun, look up #dadjokes on the internet… just laugh! One thing my husband and I used to love to do that always had us laughing was to take turns “mirroring” each other’s singing, a la Garth and Kat from Saturday Night Live circa 2013. (Dave and Rachel Hollis did it this morning on their Start Today “show,” which reminded me how much fun it is. Check out the first minute of this video for some silly inspo.)
  9. Do something kind for someone else – offer to get groceries for an elderly neighbor, check in on a friend who lives in an isolated area to see if there’s something they need sent to them that’s available in your area, make a donation to help those who are suffering deeply. (I’m a little hesitant to share this religious-affiliated source, but it is a really great list for anyone who is looking for ways to help their community.)
  10. Use retail therapy – If your finances are not impacted and you can afford it, support the local or national economy by buying something for yourself, your home, or a friend or family member. It can be something needed, wanted, or just something that sparks joy!

What are you going to do today to stay positive or help someone who needs it? What other ideas do you have that help you stay sane and focused on joy in tough times like these? Let us know in the comments!

Celebrating Leap Day!

Happy February 29th! I was thinking about this day and wondering, “What kind of fun party ideas can I share for celebrating Leap Day?” And in doing some research, I found a few fun ideas but ALSO got excited thinking about helping you celebrate a friend or family member who has a Leap Day Birthday! I mean, how special is THAT?! I’ll answer my own question: it’s super special and definitely deserves to be celebrated in a BIG way.

Because Leap Day only rolls around every {almost} four years (more on that below), it’s extra special and exciting for the roughly 4 million “Leaplings” or “Leapers”–people born on February 29th–who only get to celebrate their actual birthdate once every four years!

Leap Year Calendar

For those of us NOT born on Leap Day who love our birthdays {raising my hand}, can you imagine your actual birthday not existing for three out of every four years?! I can’t. But guess what?! I learned that many Leaplings celebrate their birthday on both February 28th AND March 1st on non-Leap Years (double-birthday fun!). Of course, there are memes for that:

Leap Day Bday Memes

I’ve also seen a lot of posts from Leaplings who celebrate their “birthday age” as opposed to their actual age, especially when it’s a fun milestone: a 40-year-old getting 10 doughnuts as his birthday cake, a 52-year old celebrating her 13th birthday, or a 64-year-old celebrating her “sweet 16.” You can have so much fun with this! Have a fun, kid-inspired 5th or 6th birthday for your 20th or 24th birthday, enjoy an evening of cocktails or go on a bar crawl with your 84-year-old Leapling grandparent who is celebrating their 21st birthday, have a dance party for your 64th (16th) birthday… the ideas are endless!

The really cool thing is that Leap Day is an extra day for ALL of us, whether it’s our birthdate or not. So, how can you celebrate this special day?! We’ve got some ideas for you!

Everyone Can Celebrate Leap Day

Since this is an extra day in the year, there are countless ways you can celebrate. Do something special just for yourself; host a casual get together with friends; make crafts with kids; decorate with frogs, kangaroos, or ballerinas–the list goes on and on! Check out some of the ideas below, and visit our Leap Day Pinterest board for even more.

Grab Some Leap Day Deals!

I don’t usually talk about sales in general on here, but there are many local and national retailers and eateries that have special Leap Day deals! As I was browsing through Instagram a few nights ago, I saw lots of places offering free meals to people with Leap Day Birthdays, or discounts to anyone on Leap Day! So be sure to search #leapday (and  #leapdaybirthday if it’s your birthday) on Twitter and Instagram for fun deals!

Take a look at some of the cool examples of cool freebies I found on Instagram, especially for Leaplings:

  • Free meal
  • Free slice of cake
  • Free bottle of prosecco
  • Free museum admission for a year
Leap Day Deals
So many freebies for Leaplings (people with a Leap Day Birthday) – be sure to check out local deals for non-Leaplings as well!

Check out this post from The Krazy Coupon Lady – she’s rounded up a whopping 41 deals for Leap Day, including deals from Quizno’s, 7-11, Olive Garden, Popeye’s, Hard Rock Hotel, Great Wolf Lodge, hotels.com, Toms shoes, Sprinkles cupcakes, Pizza Hut, Build-A-Bear, and so many more! Some are exclusively for Leaplings, but there are a lot of deals out there for us non-Leaplings to take advantage of!

Ideas for What to Watch

  • “Leap Day” episode of “30 Rock” (Season 6, Episode 9)
    If you’re not familiar with this episode of the sitcom, it’s where we are introduced to the lore of Leap Day William, the {made up} mascot of Leap Day, who “emerges every four years to trade children’s tears for candy.” It’s currently available for streaming on Hulu.
Leap Day William
My husband dressed as “Leap Day William” in 2012 at a fabulous mish-mash “HoliDaze” party  (more on that party someday soon!)
  • “The Leap Dave Williams Movie” trailer
    After you’ve watched the “30 Rock” episode, check out this fake trailer that the “30 Rock” team made with Jim Carrey and Andie MacDowell for this parody on “Groundhog Day” and a few Jim Carrey movies.
  • “Leap Day” episode from “Modern Family” (Season 3, Episode 17)
    Mitchell feels the pressure to celebrate Cam’s Leap Day birthday in a big way! The episode is available on YouTube (for $1.99)
  • Amy Adams’ Leap Year movie (PG)
    I admittedly have not actually seen this one myself, but I do adore Amy Adams! Check out the trailer. The movie is available on Amazon Prime Video (for $3.99) and probably anywhere you rent movies.
  • The animated movie “Leap!” (PG)
    Ok, it’s not actually about Leap Day, but it’s a fun, family-friendly movie simply called “Leap,” so I had to include it :). Check out the trailer on imdb. This one is also available on Amazon Prime Video and anywhere you get your movies.

Ideas for What to Listen To

  • Upbeat playlist on Spotify
    I thought certainly there would already be a Leap Day playlist out there, but the few I found were not quite what I was hoping for. So, I made a collection of some fun songs myself with “Leap” and “Jump” in the title to celebrate this special day. Enjoy – and let me know what other songs I should add!

 

Leap Day Playlist
Check out this fun playlist of songs with “leap” and “jump” in their title!

 

Ideas for What to Learn About Leaping

Check out these fun posts about animals and other leapers:

  • Which animals leap the furthest? from onehowto.com
  • Which animals leap the highest?from onekindplanet.org
    (Spoiler alert: The number one jumper is the flea!! They can jump 220 times their own body length and 150 times their own body height!)
  • World records for leaps by humans! Mike Powell holds the world record for the farthest running long jump, which he set in 1991, moments after Carl Lewis broke the previous world record! Check out this video that takes you back in time to this incredible feat!
leaping squirrel (onehowto)
Photo from onehowto.com

Want More Ideas?

For crafts, fun facts, activities, food ideas, and more, check out our Leap Day Fun Pinterest board. Some highlights:

  • Did you know there’s a special Leap Day cocktail, created back in 1928?! Pretty sure I’ll be trying one this evening.
  • There’s a fun Irish and Scottish tradition dating back to the 5th century, where women could pop the question to their significant other on February 29. If the proposal was refused, the man was expected to buy the woman a gown, fur coat or pair of gloves.” (This is also the basis for the Amy Adams’ “Leap Year” movie mentioned above :)) You can read more about it here and here.
  • Cute froggie foods, like this watermelon carved into a frog from our own Princess and the Frog birthday party, and these adorable doughnuts!

And Wait, What’s This About Leap Year NOT Being Every Four Years?

Remember how I said that Leap Day rolls around almost every four years? Well, as explained by HuffPost, “our calendar skips Leap Day every centurial year (1700, 1800, 1900, etc). The skip means that, in some years, we actually go eight years without February 29th,” except for centurial years divisible by 400.

What?! Why?! I know, it’s super confusing. Here’s some mind-bending, yet simplified math, if you’re interested:

  • The year we now use is 365.2422 days long. So, adding one whole day every four years actually puts us a little bit ahead of the actual amount of full times the Earth has revolved around the sun.
  • By skipping Leap Day three out of every four 100 years (not skipping it in the years divisible by 400), we’ve finally gotten it really, really close to perfect :).

If you’re fascinated by this and want to learn more, here’s an incredibly thorough explanation from Slate. They’ve also condensed it into a 3-minute video for those of us who prefer to keep the math lessons brief.


So, how are you celebrating Leap Day? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. And be sure to share any fun songs I should add to the playlist. Thanks, and enjoy this special “extra” day!

 

Girl Scout Cookie & Wine Pairing Party

Ah, love and friendship and a hint of spring are in the air, right along with… Girl Scout Cookies! Yes, it’s that time of year, when your adorable and friendly neighborhood Girl Scouts show up at your front door or outside your favorite grocery store, inviting you to buy some delicious cookies to help support her troop. As someone with a major weakness for sweets, AND as a new Girl Scout mom myself, it creates an intense test of my willpower on an hourly basis to not buy 5 boxes of every flavor.

I truly hope your willpower is stronger than mine. But if you’d like to indulge in these once-a-year cookies maybe just a little bit (or a lot bit), we have a great party idea for you! Whether it’s just a fun evening with a group of friends, or you’re celebrating Galentine’s Day or Palentine’s Day, or the end of Girl Scout Cookie season (because wow, it’s a lot of work, isn’t it, fellow Scout parents?!), we have a SUPER fun party idea for you: a Girl Scout Cookie & Wine Pairing Party!

A friend of mine hosted a party like this a few years ago, and I had to share with all of you, to give you some fun inspiration to host your own cookie-wine-pairing party!

As it turns out, there are a lot of different ways to have this kind of a party–I’m sharing a few of them so you can decide what approach would work best for you and your crew. You may want to have lots of pairing options or just a few, and you can splurge on wine and decor or keep it simple. Whatever you do, I’m sure your guests will have a great time at your fabulous party!

Want to skip the details and go right to a few pairing suggestions? Check out our Pinterest board! (FYI: We’ve mostly been using Pinterest for private boards for clients, so this one is the only one you’ll see for now. But trust us, Pinterest is our happy place for great inspo for everything from party outfits, to cute dessert and snack ideas, to party decor and more!)

Party Cost Estimates

As you may have already guessed, this party could get a little pricey, but I’ve got some budget-friendly tips for you! If you are inviting close friends, you could ask each person to bring an assigned bottle of wine to help cut down on costs. Don’t have enough wine glasses? Borrow some from friends, or just use regular drinking glasses! You can also save on wine and cookies by not pairing EVERY cookie flavor with a wine. See Big Tips #1 and 2 below!

Big Tip #1 – Cookies: There are NINE different flavors of cookies, but you really only need 1-2 cookie of each per person (so, for a semi-intimate sized party, one box of each is more than enough). AND, you absolutely don’t have to buy all 9 flavors. You can choose just a few to pair with a few bottles of wine, and you’re all set!

Big Tip #2 – Wine: This is less about ‘”fancy wine” and more about the experience, so don’t feel like you have to splurge on the wine. I’ll share a great link below with wine suggestions that are all $10 or less (well, one is $10.99, but several are $6, so it all evens out ;)). But of course if your budget allows, or you really love more expensive wine, you may decide to spend more.

Big Tip #3 – Beer: Prefer beer over wine? I found a few lists that pair craft beers with the cookies for you, too!

Cost Breakdown:

  • Cookies: 9 flavors, at $5/box (cost may vary slightly by location) = $45
  • Wine: 7-9 bottles, at an average of $7 each = $50-60
  • Additional Food & Drink: Whatever your budget allows/whatever you choose to spend
  • TOTAL: $100 + any additional food

The Cookies

cookies
So. Many. Cookies.

Edited update: Here’s a quick look at the nine flavors. Depending on which of the two bakers the troops near you use, you may be familiar with one of these names and not the other. Also, some of the cookies are actually slightly different depending on the baker (noted below). Want more details? Girl Scouts has you covered.

  • Thin Mints: The classic crispy, chocolatey, minty fan-favorite
  • Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties: Chocolate-covered peanut butter
  • Samoas/Caramel deLites: Delicious coconut and caramel with fudge stripes
  • Do-Si-Dos/Peanut Butter Sandwich: Peanut butter filling between two oatmeal cookies
  • Trefoils/Shortbread: Traditional shortbread
  • Thanks-A-Lot: Shortbread cookies with a chocolate fudge bottom (FYI these are retiring after this year, so if you like them, order a few and freeze them!)
  • Lemon-Ups/Lemonades: Crispy lemon cookies / Shortbread with lemon icing
  • S’Mores: Graham sandwich cookies filled with chocolate and marshmallow / Graham cookies dipped in marshmallow creme creme icing and coated in chocolate
  • Toffee-tastic/Caramel Chocolate Chip: Gluten-free butter cookies with toffee bits / Gluten-free cookie with caramel, chocolate chips, and sea salt

Pairing the Wine + Cookies

I’m not a wine expert by any standard, so I did do a lot of research to find suggestions on which wines to pair with each cookie. Check out our Pinterest board for a few ideas if you want to play around and come up with your own pairings. If you’re less confident in pairing wines with sweets (hi there!), I’m working on a fun graphic that pulls everything together to make it easier for you, as well as a spreadsheet for those of you who are super-organized. Coming soon!

Option 1: Voting Party (Pair Each Wine with Several Cookies)

I love the idea of having friends vote on which pairings are their favorites, and there’s a few ways to do this. Buy a few bottles of wine and pair each one with 2-4 cookies. Have guests take small bites of a cookie for each pairing, or they’ll be downing LOTS of cookies throughout the party. (I mean, I wouldn’t judge anyone for eating 24 cookies in a sitting… I’ve probably come pretty close that myself, even without the wine as an excuse, haha!) For more details, check out this great post from Caitlin at cutsandcrumbles. I especially love how she used craft paper and black marker to organize everything!

If you take this approach, you can make little voting cards for each guest or keep it super simple by having guests mark their vote right next to where you’ve written out the pairings–whether that’s on a craft paper table cover, a slip of scratch paper, tent cards, whatever.

cutsandcrumbles-cookie-and-wine-pairing
Source: cutsandcrumbles

Option 2: Pre-Paired Party (Pair 1 Wine + 1 Cookie)

Choose a bottle of wine to pair with each cookie you’re serving. This setup is a little bit easier (you can just put the cookies right next to the wines you are pairing with them), and if you wanted to add voting to it, you could have people score each pairing, or just choose their top choice(s). I really like the setup my friend David had below.

IMG_1460

Decor & Serving

For the wine, you can have guests use the same glass throughout the night to minimize waste, but if you prefer to use disposable clear cups or stemware those will obviously work, too.

For the cookies, you’ll need a few plates or serving platters, and some sort of way to label each flavor with little signs or tent cards. But if you’re going for super-casual, you could just serve the cookies straight out of the box. You’ll also need little dessert plates or napkins for guests to eat off of.

If you have a surplus of wine glasses on hand, you could put the cookies into a wine glass instead of on a platter or plate. I don’t know how practical this is (it seems like you’d need mini tongs to get the cookies out of the glass?) but seriously, how cute is it?!

redshoesredwine-cookie-pairing
Source: redshoesredwine

If you have a limited supply of cookies or wine, you may want to pre-set plates and/or wine pours for each guest, like Holly from legallycraftyblog suggests.

legallycraftyblog-cookies-and-wine
Source: legallycraftyblog

You could get real fancy and have cardstock labels for stemmed glasses – either with the cookie to pair the wine with written on it (like above), or the type of wine that’s in the glass, or guests’ names. Pretty cute!

I also like the fun pairing guide (shown above) that gives guests a handy reference through the night.

Bonus Info

  • FOOD: It’s a great idea to serve some savory food midway through the party, or in conjunction with the cookies. You can either take a “tasting break” for some non-sugary foods, or have a few options out from the start so guests can self-break from the sweets. Cutsandcrumbles has some delicious suggestions.
  • POURS: Remember, just like you’ll be eating–or at least tasting–lots of cookies, you’ll be drinking–errr, tasting–lots of wine, so aim for 1-ounce pours. That’s enough to try the pairing, enjoy the wine, and move on to the next one.
  • DESSERT: “What?! Dessert?! I thought this whole party was basically dessert?” Well yes, yes it is. But when my friend hosted this party, he also included this incredible Samoas/Carmel Delights Trifle, and I feel compelled to share it with you. You know, just in case you want to offer a sweet besides straight-up Girl Scout cookies, but you still want to keep it “in theme” with the party :). Here’s a photo to entice you.

Samoa Trifle

PS: Additional Resources

I found so many great ideas and posts out there in my research, I didn’t want to leave these great resources unshared. You’ll find them on our Pinterest board but in case you miss them, here they are!

  • Are you really into wine details, like tasting notes, winemaking, and more? Check out the cookie-and-wine-pairing blog post from redshoesredwine.
  • Looking for a totally honest, taste-tested critique of some of the popular recommended pairings? I loved this post from foodandwine.
  • Want a non-alocholic take on this party? themodernbarista has some fun recommendations for pairing the cookies with different with Starbucks coffee blends! You could do this instead of or even alongside the wines at your party.

 


So, are you excited to host your own Girl Scout Cookie and Wine Pairing party? Let me know in the comments below what recommendations you have for pairings or making this party even more fabulous! Happy tasting!

10 EASY Halloween Party Treats

We’ve Got You Covered

Going to a Halloween party? Having friends over for a casual Halloween get-together? Hanging out with family or friends post-trick-or-treating? We’ve rounded up ten great, SUPER easy treats you can make, including several healthy options. Most of these treats take less than 10 minutes to make, with just a few simple ingredients you probably already have on hand (like we said, we’re focused on EASY!). They’re so easy, kids can help out in the kitchen as well!

Click the treat title to get the recipe, and be sure to check out the suggestions we’ve included to help you out.

Four-Ingredient Bat Treats

Image and Recipe credit: Suburban Simplicity

These are so easy to make! And mmmm, mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups!

Tip: Can’t find the edible candy eyeballs? Try substituting with mini marshmallows (cut in half so they’re not so tall) and a dot of black decorating gel!

White Chocolate Strawberry Ghosts

Photo and recipe credit: Made It. Ate It. Loved It.

Tip: You could try using black decorating gel instead of milk chocolate melts for the faces, to make it even quicker. But test this out – the decorating gel may run and drip a bit.

Tangerine Pumpkins and Banana Ghosts

Image and recipe credit: weelicious

These are SO easy to make and look so cute!

Tips:

  • Add some of the little leaves from the celery stalks, or from a fresh herb (like basil, mint, or parsley) for an added touch on the pumpkins.
  • It’s a little tricky to get the banana ghosts to stay standing; you might have to slice off a little bit extra off the bottom so that they stand more upright.
  • We printed little “RIP Bananas” signs to go with them for a party earlier this week. (Since it was for personal use, we used this royalty-free image, dropped it into PowerPoint, and added the word “Bananas” on top of it in Nanum Brush Script font (the closest I could find in a rush.)

Edible Carrot Eyeballs

Photo and recipe credit: originally from Family Fun, shared by Brendid

This is one of the EASIEST treats (and one of the healthiest, too!). It’s just sliced carrots, cream cheese, and black olives!

Candy Corn Fruit Cups

Photo and recipe credit: Nellie Bellie

This is so cute, and it’s much more filling and waaaaay healthier than the candy corn that inspired this treat. It’s just chopped pineapple, mandarin oranges, and a dollop of yogurt (or you can use whipped cream).

Tip: Be sure to serve this in clear jars/glasses so the candy corn layers are on display!

Apple Witches Teeth

Photo and recipe credit: originally from Gretchen Zelek, shared by Shape

Another super easy and fun treat. Each set of teeth is just 1/4 apple (with a section cut out) and slivered almonds. Nut allergies? Try substituting Rice Krispies cereal!

Read on for a cookie & marshmallow take on this treat.

Dracula Dentures

Source: Delish.com

This is a sweeter version of the Witches Teeth treat above. Make your own cookies, or get store-bought. Just break a cookie in half, lather on some red frosting, and stick about 8 mini marshmallows on as teeth. Add slivered almonds for the “fangs,” and you’re all set!

Mini Spider Pizzas

Photo and recipe credit: Recipe Runner

Tip: Want to make it super easy?! Use frozen pizza bagels instead of making your own mini pizzas 🙂

For a ghostly version of these, check out the next recipe below.

Ghost Pizza Bagels

Source: Delish.com

With just a few ingredients, you’ve got adorable ghost pizzas! It’s just mini bagels, slices of mozzarella cheese (cut a simple ghost shape with a paring knife), marinara or pizza sauce, and sliced olives for eyes!

Mini Donut Spiders

Photo and recipe credit: It’s Always Autumn

Last, but absolutely not least, we have these cute donut spiders! Take pretzel twists, mini chocolate donuts, M&Ms, and some frosting or melted chocolate, and voila! You’ve got a deliciously fun donut-spider. Yum!


Which easy Halloween treat is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Turning a Pumpkin Into BB-8!

You know those oversized pumpkin pails at Target (& other places)?

Did you know you could turn it into THIS for a toddler Halloween costume in just a few hours??

trick or treating as BB-8

I made this precious BB-8 costume for my son two years ago when he was almost 3, and it was honestly one of the easiest DIY-from-scratch costumes I’ve ever made! And he got SO much love and attention, he loved it! (In fact, he’s almost five now, and he still puts it on from time to time. It’s kind of like the cardboard box concept, right? Kids just love being inside of something!)

Whether you need a last-minute, adorable Halloween costume for your little one or just want to make a fun, pretend-play costume for anytime of year, this is the perfect DIY craft!

All you need is some fleece & felt, white ribbon for straps, and a glue gun! Get a white baby beanie hat (or sew one out of cotton or fleece), some plastic bottle scraps from your recycling bin for hat details, and black paint. And you’re all set!! So easy and fun!

Total Time: 3-5 hours

  • Buy fabric: 1 hour
  • Cut fabric: 1 hour
  • Assemble/glue base: 1 hour
  • Hat Details: 1 hour

Materials

  • Oversized pumpkin pail like the ones at Target; black or orange would both work great
  • White fleece
    • You’ll cut 2 pieces this size for the base: height/stretch direction: 20″, width/non-stretch direction: 52″
    • Plus more for white cut-shape circles to go on top of the orange circles
  • Orange, grey, and white felt (plus tiny pieces of black, red, and yellow for details)
  • 1-inch wide white ribbon
  • Hot glue gun
  • White baby beanie hat (like this one from Amazon,
    • Want to DIY the hat? Get some fleece or stretchy cotton fabric; you’ll need a sewing machine and thread (or needle and thread), and a hat pattern like the one found here
  • Plastic caps and scraps (I used a ball pit ball [similar here], a plastic screw cap from a milk carton, and a milk gallon cap ring, but you can totally improvise with whatever you have on hand in the recycling bin)
  • Black paint for the plastic scraps (I used spray paint, but any kind of paint would work)
  • Optional: small piece of black craft foam to go around the “camera”
  • Scissors
  • Small hand saw, coping saw, or dremel (to cut off the bottom of the pumpkin)

How to Do It

I used this wonderful, super-detailed, step-by-step tutorial from Make It & Love It (my go-to source for detailed costume tutorials!). I’ve added some additional notes and tips below from my own experience making it.

  • DIY hat: I used white jersey knit cotton fabric to make the hat, since I knew fleece would be too hot for our Florida temperatures. Plus, the jersey cotton fabric is super stretchy, so I knew it would fit his head for a long time 🙂 (It still fits, two years later!)
  • Hat detail materials: For BB-8’s camera, you can use any hollow, smooth ball. I used one of the “parachute balls” we already have (same as like a ball-pit ball), and cut it in half with scissors. I also used a 1″ diameter plastic screw cap from a milk carton (or vinegar bottle, I don’t recall) for the other detail, and a milk gallon cap “ring” (1.5″ diameter) to go around that–all things we already had. And I spray painted them all black (it takes a few coats). I decided to create an outer ring for the ball/camera; I cut a skinny strip black craft foam 9″ long and gave it some varying width.
  • Attaching hat details: Probably because I did not use fleece, it was a little difficult for me to glue the plastic onto the hat and have it stay in place. (Even with a lot of hot glue.) So I cut out a circle of white fleece a tiny bit larger than the half ball/“camera,” to sort of use as a base. It was much easier for me to hot glue the “camera” and its ring (optional) onto the fleece circle, and then glue the fleece circle onto the hat. I also used some tape stuck to the inside of the ball, along the edge, to slightly reinforce attaching the ball to the circle. The craft foam ring also helped keep the camera on the hat (I glued the outside of the half ball/camera to the inside of the ring).
camera base detail
  • Straps: I hot glued these like in the tutorial, but they eventually (after a few wearings) came apart. I recommend hand sewing them with a few stitches if you want extra support. Or have safety pins on hand just in case, haha!
safety pins to the rescue!
  • Base detail: Below are some of the pics I Google-searched for reference when making BB-8’s detail designs (I tend go a bit overboard with precise detail and wanted it to look EXACTLY like BB-8’s designs, but you can TOTALLY just improvise!). To cut out the four circle-bases, I basically traced around small bowls to draw two different-sized circles on paper: one for the orange layer (mine was 7 1/2″ diameter) and one for the white layer (mine was 5 3/4″ diameter). Then I drew the “cutouts” for the white detail layer and cut out these paper stencils/patterns to use for the felt (four of each layer).
Sources: various, via Google search

To design the gray sections, I found the reference images above and then cut my gray felt into similar shapes. Then just hot-glue them all together!

my four base detail designs
  • Cutting off the bottom: I had my husband cut the bottom of the pumpkin off for me, just because he’s super familiar with saws and I am not. But he says they’re easy to learn how to use. Don’t have one? Ask a neighbor if you can borrow one! **Be safe! If you have long hair, be sure to tie it up if you’re using a dremel. And don’t wear hanging/flowy clothing.**

And… it was only in writing this post that I just realized I actually never finished this costume fully, hahaha!! I forgot to add {did not prioritize} the skinny horizontal gray stripes and the black/red/yellow felt details on the base. Oops!! But you know what? Literally everyone who sees this costume LOVES it. So if you do add those extra touches, I think it makes it extra-awesome, but it will be fabulous even without them!

Wearing It

I was actually SO surprised by how easy it was for my son to not only walk around in this, but also to sit on a chair, and even in a stroller!!?! I don’t recommend long stints in a stroller, but the pumpkin pail is quite sturdy and isn’t likely to get bent up at all.


This costume/project was so fun, let me know if you decide to give it a try!

4 Fun Ways to Use Cardboard Boxes at Your Next Party

know you’ve seen one of these before…in person. On your porch, or in your garage or basement, or on the curb to be picked up for recycling. You might even have one of these in your home right now. What is this {not-so} mysterious item??

A seemingly mundane cardboard box! Nearly everyone has them, but have you ever used one in your party decor? If not, you’re probably thinking, “Dull, brown, cardboard garbage {recycling}, with random black utility markings on it? Amanda, you’ve lost your mind. What kind of parties are you throwing?!” I hear ya! Just bear with me ;). I hope to inspire you to save a few and use at least ONE for your next party!

Before we get into four fabulous ways you can use cardboard boxes as party decor, just a quick note about what kind of boxes we’re talking about. The reality is, truly ANY size box can be used. Depending on how you want to use them, small, medium, large, or huge can serve several purposes for your party. Typically, the best kind are corrugated shipping boxes (think Amazon, UPS, USPS, etc…. any box used to ship something). You want them to be sturdy enough that they won’t quickly become flimsy.

1) Add height to your food display

If you don’t have cute little crates, cake stands, or tiered trays to use, small boxes can be great for your buffet. Adding height to your food display creates visual interest, is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and adds dimension. It’s usually something most of your guests won’t consciously notice, but their subconscious will tell them they like what they’re seeing.

NOTE: To use boxes on your buffet table, you’ll also need some fabric to cover them (a tablecloth, table runner, or really any fun fabric). Just having the boxes on your table with all their marked-up glory is definitely not appealing to the eye. And be sure your boxes are sturdy – you don’t want your food dish to come crashing down!

2) Behind-the-scenes support for a sign or large decoration

We’ve used flattened boxes as a sort of “base” or support for a paint archery target and a “Tiana’s Palace” sign that we put up on our roof.

3) Photo op and other decor

This one is probably my favorite way to use big boxes! We have used large boxes and painted them or covered them with craft paper to turn them into a cool car photo op, Rapunzel’s tower, jungle animals, Boo’s door (from Monster’s Inc.), and more. For my son’s upcoming “Abominable”/Everest party next month, we’re going to make a fur-covered Everest! (I’m super excited about it and will add a link to it when I have the photos up!)

4) Kids Play

If you have kids or have been around kids much, you probably already know how much they LOVE playing in boxes. So we’ve found fun ways to let kids just PLAY with cardboard boxes at a party. This generally works best with the five-and-under crew, but I’m sure there are ways older kids could have playing fun with boxes, too. We’ve taken boxes and painted them to make little personal “cars,” and used them just as they are to turn them into a big canoe and dragon caves! !

One of the most fun things we did that absolutely appeals to people of all ages was creating a “Hulk Smash Wall”! We got the idea from As Cute as a Bug’s Ear – they even stepped it up an extra notch by painting every box. We decided to save some time and just use them in their plain brown (and white, and printed-on) loveliness, but painting them to look like bricks is super-star level for sure! This was a lot of fun, and the kids had a great time smashing the wall and building it back up again, over and over and over and OVER :).

Smash those boxes!

You can also cut out a panel from a box and turn it into something fun – like this “dragon fire” mini-photo op we created, just by using a box cutter and some acrylic paint!


Tips for Using Cardboard Boxes

  • Use the flaps of the box, if needed, to help prop it up. Strong tape (like duct tape) is a great help with this as well – just tape the flaps in place so they are a little stronger/sturdier.
  • If you’re going to be painting your box(es), acrylic or poster paints both work great. If the color doesn’t seem to “pop” the way you want it to, you can prime it first (with a coat of white paint).
  • If you’re painting, use a few different shades of a color to add some texture, dimension, or visual interest to your artwork. (The dragon fire and jungle photo op above are good examples of this.)
  • Need a really big box? Appliance boxes, assemble-it-yourself furniture boxes, and others can be a great asset for a party! Here are some tips to get one if you don’t happen to have one:
    • Ask local friends and neighbors if they have any (the NextDoor app is a great way to do this!). Someone near you will have received a large box they haven’t gotten rid of yet.
    • Try calling a local “big box” retailer, like Target, Walmart, Best Buy, HomeDepot or Lowes, or anyone else who might receive large shipments of items. Ask if they have a large box you could have. (Be sure to give them a general idea of the dimensions or size you’re looking for.)
    • Drive around on garbage-pickup-day to see if any big boxes are out on the curb and in good condition! (That’s how we stockpiled so many boxes for the Hulk Smash wall.)
    • If you do receive something that comes in a big, oversized box, break it down (so it’s flat), then store it along the wall inside your garage, basement, attic, closet, or anywhere out of the way, just so you have it in case you end up wanting one for your next party!
  • A note about recycling boxes: if they’re painted, they generally cannot be recycled. But you can still feel good about the fact that you already helped the earth by reusing the box in the first place!

What are YOU excited to do with a cardboard box for your next party? Are there any ways to use them that we missed? Let us know in the comments, we love to hear your ideas!


Craft: Dragon Wings

The Dragon Party

I’ll share ALL the details about my son’s dragon party in a future post, but for now just let me say this: It was one of my favorite parties of all time. Seriously. The kids (mostly age 3) had such a great time, and I was so happy with how everything turned out.

One thing I loved most was seeing all the kiddos flying {running} around in these adorable dragon wings I made as party favors for each invited guest. And guess what? YOU could make them, too! Let’s get to it.

dragons have an insatiable appetite

Making the Wings

I found this great, detailed tutorial from Louise of I’m Feelin’ Crafty, and I was SO excited to have found such great instructions! It’s always so nice when someone has already paved the way for you by executing, documenting, and sharing an idea you have in your head – it makes it so much easier!

I had found these super cute felt masks online and decided to buy them rather than try to make them (someday I will give it a go… just not yet). After ordering the masks, I went to my local fabric store, coupons ready, and bought fleece in colors that matched the masks.

Materials (per set of wings), per Feelin’ Crafty’s tutorial:

  • Fleece
  • 2 metal hangers
  • Fusible Adhesive, like Steam to Seam or Heat’n Bond Ultra
  • Elastic, 18inches*
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Wire Cutters

My Time:

About 45-60 minutes each

My Notes/Tips:

  • Timing – I didn’t know it would take so long to make these, I’ll be honest! After the first pair or two, I started getting into a groove (which is what brought it down to about 45 minutes per set)
  • Ironing – The most time-consuming part is probably ironing the top layer on top of the bottom layer. Louise mentions in her tutorial, “This ironing step takes a little while”… she’s not kidding! It’s ironing around the metal hanger pieces – especially the vertical bones – that make it quite a bit more time-intensive than I thought. I tried shortcuts, but nope, this is just how it needs to be done.
  • Cutting hangers – This took a bit more grip/strength than I expected, who knew those little metal hangers were such tough cookies?
  • Sewing – The tutorial calls for sewing, which I personally am comfortable with, but for those of you who aren’t, you could try using hot glue around the outside edges (it tends to work relatively well on fleece in general), or stitching by hand.
    • You might be able to get away with making relatively long stitches (= shorter amount of time than tight stitches).
    • Unfortunately, you can’t skip having to stitch around the vertical bones of the wings; i thought the fusible adhesive would hold them in place and I could skip this step, but no such luck. I don’t think hot glue alongside those bones would hold up very well either (but if you give it a try, let us know how it works out!).
  • *Elastic – This measurement is for toddler-size kiddos; check your measurement before cutting and sewing the elastic.
  • Durability – My kids have had theirs for almost two years now, and they probably play with them at least once a month, running around the house, sitting on the couch, eating lunch with them on, and so on. They are holding up pretty well!

Please let me know if you try this! I would love to hear how it goes. You can do it!

Happy crafting!


Allow me to introduce myself…

Hi there! I’m diving a little deeper here to introduce myself (and this awesome business) to those of you I may not already know.

Who am I?

I’m Amanda, and I’m the creator of Dreaming Up Parties. I’m a mom of two kids: my daughter is 7, and my son is almost 5. They are an absolute joy to have in my life. As an added bonus, they LOVE to have a themed party just about as much as I love to host one, haha!! In fact, they’re the reasons I’ve grown to really love and get quite skilled at throwing a good themed party.

My husband Scott and I have been together for 17 years (married 11), and we live in the Orlando, Florida area. He is my right-hand party-thrower. In our family, I do most of the planning and figuring out what ideas I want to do, and he is the day-of and day-before planner and co-executor. He has also helped me learn to “reel in” some of my big ideas so that we don’t get overwhelmed with having too much to do to make them happen – and I SO appreciate that!

I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, so I still consider myself a midwestern gal at heart. I love the seasons in the northern US, but I do love wearing sandals and flip flops nearly year-round here in FL, and I LOVE that Disney World is basically in my backyard. My two favorite holidays are Halloween and Christmas, followed closely by my birthday {I know, that’s not technically a holiday, but everyone’s birthday is super special in our family}. 🙂

I love tacos, dark chocolate, crafting, running, & pilates, and I cherish quality time with my close friends and my family. I’m passionate about protecting the planet, and I’m also on a health journey–it’s been a long one–so I’m sure you’ll see both of those aspects seep into some of what I share here and on social media as it relates to party planning.

Why did I create Dreaming Up Parties? 

I’ve always loved a good party, and themed parties are absolutely my “happy place.” I marvel at the creativity and how all the little details add up to make such a truly special, memorable experience for the guests.

The first themed party I co-hosted was with Scott and a few dear friends of ours. It was a celebration of multiple holidays, all rolled into one amazing party, and we called it “Holidaze.” We had everything from a Christmas tree, to Jack-o-lanterns, to Valentine’s conversation hearts (RIP Necco), a New Year’s Eve champagne toast at midnight, and many more holiday-themed food, drinks, and decorations. It was beyond fabulous, and we kept the tradition going for several years. I’m pretty sure THAT was when I truly fell in love with planning and hosting themed parties.

Fast-forward a few years
, and we started hosting fun, DIY themed parties for our kiddos. From Rapunzel, Princess & the Frog, and Anne Wheeler from “The Greatest Showman,” to cars, jungle, dragon, and superhero themes, we’ve had a great time creating memories for our kids (and ourselves). I also love hosting baby showers for friends, and I’ve planned or co-planned some great celebrations at my office as well. I’m pretty much excited to help with anything related to a good themed party!

After my daughter’s 6th birthday party last year, a very good friend of mine told me I should really consider starting a party planning business. I kind of laughed off the idea, but the seed she planted grew and grew, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought, “This could be super fun!” So after thinking about it and working on it for over a year, this new dream of mine is becoming a reality – and it is super exciting!

What about the name? Oh, deciding on a name for a business is almost as challenging as deciding on a name for a baby! (To give you a little insight into my mind, my husband and I didn’t actually come to a final decision on our daughter’s name until she was about 36 hours old, haha!!) I named it “Dreaming Up Parties” because it works in a couple different ways: My clients may have a party they’ve envisioned or dreamed of, and I do help them make it happen by dreaming up ideas for the party! The two parts of my work that really light my heart on fire are 1) getting to dream up, explore, and discover fabulous ideas for a party, AND 2) helping others achieve something they didn’t even know or believe they could do – surpassing their dreams for themselves!

Why DIY Party Planning Support?

The more I talked with my friend about this idea, the more I realized that my greatest strengths in party planning are really finding and coming up with fun ideas, and planning what needs to be done. I also LOVE the “execution” part – the “making” of things, and bringing the ideas to life – but that takes more time than I could feasibly give to clients and would pull too much free time away from my kids and my husband.

So… in talking with people to see where their biggest pain points were, I learned that a lot of people (especially working mamas) either a) don’t feel like they have the time to come up with ideas for a party, or b) don’t think they are creative enough or capable of carrying out the ideas.

If you’re part of group “a” above, I hope you can pull ideas from what we share here, on social, and in our weekly emails to save you some time. And if you’d love to have someone else pull together a bunch of great, achievable ideas, we’re here to help! Check out our one-on-one personalized services.

If you’re part of group “b” above, my hope is that you will ultimately go outside your comfort zone to try to carry out your party ideas that seem out of reach. I PROMISE you, if I can make a cute banner, or a tutu, or fun-themed-food, so can you. We’ll be sharing ideas, tips, and inspiration for how to “do it yourself,” so stick with us. You just may end up surprising yourself!

Lastly, if you’re not part of either of those groups, we’d still love to have you hang around and be a part of our online community. Maybe an idea or experience you share will spark someone’s creativity or give them that little nudge they need to try it out for themselves!