10 October, 2006

Reader Requests: Pumpkin Party Help

Okay, Okay. I know I’ve been MIA today. So sue me. Well, maybe don’t sue me per say as I don’t think Mr. Monogram would appreciate that, but whatever. Don’t say I didn’t warn you that October was going to be crazy busy for me! Just take comfort in knowing you are always on my mind. *queue Willie Nelson singing in the background*

So this morning I dropped the mini monograms off at pre-school only to realize I had written the wrong day and time down for an important meeting at the pre-school. Argh. There went an entire hour out of my morning! After that I had to make a mad dash home to check on a few ebay auctions (yeah I’m totally serious about this. I’m one of those last second bidders who have aggravatingly swiped your coveted item in the last 50 seconds of an auction). With the thrill of victory (and someone else’s agony of defeat) securely under my belt, it was time to hop back in the car and make a mad dash out to the ‘burbs to my favorite gift and stationary shop. However, while I was on my way, I stopped at my new favorite little gift shop closer to my home and really got in the stationary invitation buying spirit! I saw so many adorable invitations that I swear it made me want to throw a hunting themed party just for the heck of it. Don’t put it past me; you know it just might happen. So anyway, now I’m on my way out to the ‘burbs and thankfully, I finally found mini monogram #2’s birthday party invitations. Of course they are going to frustrate the dickens out of me printing them, but whatever. As long as they’re cute, who cares?! I also scored an ADORABLE apron there for my sister which my monogrammer now has possession of to monogram for me, then ran and met my friend Robin for lunch. A few things that didn’t get done today are a quick run into Old Navy a stop into Michael’s, and also into Target. But please, who can just “run” into Target and get out? Not this monogram momma, that’s for sure!

Gosh I am really babbling tonight aren't I? And I’m sure it really doesn’t excite you to know what’s been keeping me so wrapped up and busy today. But just know I’ve spotted some fabulous stationary and paper and invitations and I will be sharing those with you shortly. But for now, here’s a reader request to quench your creative and curious thirst.

Sarah says:

Hi Monogram Momma,
I hope you aren't sick of me yet- believe me I have many more things I am dying to ask you about! As I stated in my previous emails I was recently married. My dear husband has two children (7 and 10) the children and I enjoy a wonderful relationship! Now, I am an old pro (!) at grown up cocktail partys and dinners but I am embarking on my first ever kids party! I have invited seven families that we are friends with (children and parents) and my stepchildren have each invited an additional 3-4 classmates for a party on a Saturday afternoon/night before Halloween. I am all set on the adult part- the appetizers, drinks etc but the children are leaving me stumped! Should I set up stations- one to carve pumpkins, another to do a craft, so on and so on? In our guest house we are setting up a haunted house but Monogram Momma I have no idea how to entertain children at a party for three hours! Please help! The party is the 21st of October- I sent out the invitations last week- so cute the Jack O'Lanterns by Sarah LeClere (Fine Stationery) The party is 5-8 PM mix of adults/kids I am mostly having it catered which will cover the adults but am not really sure what the feed the kids! I am not really into just ordering pizza- and am sure you have fabulous ideas! I was going to set our front porch (it is glassed in) up as a pumpkin carving area, the dining room would be the dessert buffet- I just got beautiful serving pieces that I am dying to use! I love love love crafts but am not very experienced with doing them with kids! I am not sure what is age appropriate- the ages of the kids will range from 3-10!

Dear Sarah (btw, my niece's name is Sarah), I hope you didn't think I forgot about you, but I've been so busy! I can't quite remember what I've been busy with but trust me, I've been a lunatic lately (at least that's what my husband's been murmuring anyway). The possible move to the land of Coalminers Daughters has NOT had me in a very pleasant or party planning type of mood, but now that that's been settled (and I seem to have won the battle), I can sit down and get some additional ideas to you. First of all, let me just say, what a great choice you made with the Sarah LeClere. I adore her stationary. If anyone can do elegant and cute in a quirky invitation, it's Sarah. Shall I assume my invitation is being held up in the mail? *sigh*

Food for Kids: Honestly stick to finger foods, which I'm sure you're going to have lots of snacks and app's available anyway. But I would designate an area for the kids food and drinks. Now, if you hop on over to the Family Fun website, you can get a whole long list of great Halloween themed kid friendly party foods here. Don't forget to check out Martha's website and on the Halloween page, scroll down to where it says "Repulsive Recipes." These recipes are very simple and easy to do and fun for the kids to eat as well. If you don't want to make them, then you can always print up a few recipes and see if your caterer will do it. For instance, the mummy fingers which are really just pigs in a blanket, are a big crown pleaser for kids. If you label the fun finger foods with their creepy names, then that will be fun for the kids as well. And try to remember that you can always make a dip more fun by putting a creepy looking hand from the party supply store coming out of or into the bowl of dip, or maybe a attach a few plastic spiders to the outside of the silver bowl, so you've still got your beautiful serving pieces, but you're making them more festive for Halloween. And one more tip to think about is if you opt to do a cheese ball of some sort, that can easilly be turned into the shape of a pumpkin. You can see here what sister #2 did for mini #2's birthday party last year as an example. Cut the stem off of a piece of brocoli, turn it upside down and it instantly becomes the stem of the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Decorating/Carving: Actual carving will be difficult for the younger ones, so in addition to pumpkin carving, i would buy small pumpkins and some pumpkin painting kits so some of the kids can paint their pumpkins instead of carving. You might even want to do a glitter station too, since glitter pumpkins seem to be all the rage. I would still keep this all in the same area as the carving, but it will just give the little ones a chance to decorate as well! I know that last year they had a pumpkin painting kit at Walmart (yes, the dreaded Walmart that you all know I *love* so much) that included a real pumpkin, a paint kit, brushes, and even a few stencils, in an octogonal box. Each little box had a nice little handle and was made so the pumpkin could rest perfectly on top for drying. It was perfect! They may also have those at Sam's Club, I'm not sure, and I haven't looked for them this year, but they were fabulous last year and the kids really had a ball with it.

Crafts: Don't sweat it! Trust me, I know that arranging crafts and activities for young children when you're not used to it can be slightly intimidating. But even if you don't fancy yourself a crafty person, hop on over to Oriental Trading Company and they sell simple and fun Fall and Halloween crafts and everything you could possible need to do the crafts, in little kits. Theire prices are SO INEXPENSIVE and it is the easiest one stop shop for kids crafting projects. I like to keep a few different things around the house for the kids on days (such as today) when we don't quite make it out of the house. Anyway, here is the Halloween page and on the left-hand side, there is a link for Halloween crafts. One thing I love is the Halloween Photo Magnet Craft. It's easy enough for small kids to just glue the pieces on the frame and will require very little parental assistance. I mean we don't want to be dragging the parents away from all the adult fun to be crafting with the kids all night, right? I always try to take pictures of each child at a party so I can send it with my thank you note, so if they did this craft, you can include a photo for the frame to each parent. Alternately, you can take cute digital pictures throughout the earlier part of the evening, maybe of each family or couple or child doing activities and enjoying themselves at the party, and assign a teenager to print them up on photo paper so the guests can take them home with them from the party, already in the frame. But that is just one craft example. You will find an endless array of ideas over at OTC so I would recommend buying a few different types to give kids different options. As far as actually DOING the crafts, you can set up different craft stations or 1 large crafting area. I like the idea of having a designated crafting area, but a table for each different craft. That way the different parts and pieces won't get all jumbled together for the kids. If you don't have enough tables and chairs, always remember hay bales are the perfect seating this time of year! Cover them with some rustic looking burlap (so your guests aren't walking around with hay on their rear ends..although that would make for some good pictures though!) and arrange them in different seating arrangments for people to casually sit and converse and the kids to do crafts as well. In terms of what is an age appropriate craft, I would recommend this: Age 3-5 stick with gluing and simple coloring. ages 6-10 you can do some more complicated crafts that involve beading and simple instructions, and of course, gluing and painting too. Also, I will tell you the little ones always love stickers so that is something else to keep in mind. Oh, and don't forget to pick up enough glue from Oriental Trading Co as well before you place your craft order!

Drinks: I know you didn't ask me about this, but you know me, I'm going to make a few suggestions anyway. If you're planning on having a tended bar, then that's ideal. If not, and you're keeping this on the more casual catered side of things, then I love to use pumpkins as coolers to hold drinks this time of year. Yep, that's right! PUMPKINS AS A COOLER! I know, it's sheer genious; one of my true Martha moments. I will touch more on this in a post later on in the week, but you can buy smaller pumpkins and carve them out, fill them with ice and drinks (the kids especially think this is really fun), or buy a few of the hundred pounders as I have, make a large hole in the top and clean it all out and fill it with drinks. Here's a little example from mini #2's birthday party last October. Of course, ignore the little snack cups in front, but you can see that I used two medium to large sized pumpkins and held the kids drinks in them on the buffet table. If you set up a nice multi-level area of hay bales, then make a nice area and gathering place of these pumpkins filled with ice and drinks, it's very festive and fall looking. Since it's getting dark earlier now too, I might even stake a few oil lanterns in the ground (tall ones, not short, because of the kids. Safety first you know!) to keep it well lit also. One more idea to keep in mind if you're enteratining outside and this would be great out by your guest house, is to pick up one or two new aluminum wheel-barrows. Yes! Wheel-barrows! Fill them with ice and keep them stocked with drinks. You can even have large orange and yellow bows made from your local craft store and tie them on each handle, and sprinkle some hay loosely around the base. I know this is a lot of focus on drinks, but that's just my own pet peeve as I like to make sure there is more than enough food and drink for everyone. Besides, you know I just do not like an insulated cooler for entertaining so that means sometimes you just have to get creative!

Now, one last idea I'm going to throw out to you. You mentioned a haunted house in the pool house. That is a great idea! I love this, but remember the little ones probably won't enjoy having a scary monster jump out at them in the dark, nor will their parents at 3Am when little Johnny waskes up screaming from nightmares in a fit of terror. So as an alternative you can have a large haystack (can you tell I get a little obsessed with hay this time of year?) and buy lots of little fun trinkets and toys and bouncy balls and stickers, etc... from oriental trading as well. Have them well hidden in the haystack so the kids really have to hunt and dive for them. Also pick up some around the neck flashlights for the kids and before the "needle in the haystack" competition, equip each child with their around the neck flashlight and a bag to hold all their fun finds. You can do this for the older kids as well, but I would do lots of layers of really well hidden stuff for them. Let the little kids go first and just let a buzzer go off when their time is up. Then let the bigger kids go have their turn at the fun next! Oh, one important note here is to wait until it's about dark to do this so they can use their little flashlights to find their treats!

Now, like I said, I'm anxiously awaiting my invite or at the very least, some great photos!


cel said...

very cute ideas mm! I have a 9 yo- and we love to throw shindigs-- my #1 fav is tee shirt tie dye- how cute would that be in green,orange, yellow neons and it is sooo easy!!
a scav hunt w/ glowsticks, ect are fun and so are make your own smoothies ( you could label ingredients grossly ie eyeballs for grapes)- have fun!!!!!
glad you've recouped from your big, but ostalgic AU trip MM!

Bossy Bar-Wife said...

Pumpkins as coolers! I LOVE IT! How do you think of all this stuff? I need to have a party.

Susan said...

Great suggestions, MM, I am going to try the pumpkin-as-cooler! Sarah, if you are going to have the kids carve pumpkins, my experience from Friday's bash taught me to carve off the pumpkin tops beforehand. That part was almost too hard for 12-year-olds (not to mention my horror at some dangerous knife angles), but once we got that done, they loved gutting and carving away! P.S. MM - glad you get to stay put!

Josephine said...

Sheer genius! I'm going to use some of these ideas at my next Halloween party.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the glittery pumpkins!