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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Polar Bear Party


THEME: We have a large group BEACH party in Delaware, Maryland every year for my daughter's friends and family.  I have posts about previous ones, including the Minions one.  I alwayspick a theme.  Because it is usually a group of 16 people, I make placemats to match the theme.  If you are interested in doing this, go to:
Above are two of the characters I added to the mats, along with ice bergs, ships, buoys, etc.
DRESS:  I asked everyone to bring an all white outfit. I ordered white knit hats from Amazon, along with white pompoms and bear noses.  I sewed the pompoms on the hats and glued the eyes onto the hats at the beach.
This is the birthday girl front and center.

I even bought two large plush polar bears, which we used as footstools all week.

I like to have a craft of some sort every year.  Last year the group made Minions cup cakes. It was like I had asked them to jump off a bridge.  Using a decorating bag seemed to be like using a foreign tool.  But those cupcakes turned out ADORABLE.  Search Minions on this blog to see the results.  So this year, they were better prepared.  If you look closely at the last picture above, you will see the placemats.
A few years back, I bought miniature beach chairs from Amazon that are meant to hold
American Girl dolls.  They held plush polar bears for the centerpieces. Any toddlers coming usually get to take the plush animals home.
One of the couples from the South have started making a low country boil for the birthday dinner. It consists of sausage, shrimp, corn, potatoes.  Once cooked, it is dumped on brown bags covering the table and is eaten with your fingers.
Over the years, I have assigned cooking each night to couples or groups, since after-all it IS my beach vacation.  I always bring chili supplies, though, just in case the group wants
to go out on the town one night.
So, are thirty-somethings too old for themed parties?  No, they tell me.  They are
anxiously awaiting how I am carrying out the OWL theme this year.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lumberjack Chili Contest

THEME:  In choosing a theme, I have to consider what props I have stored and
             which ones I would have to purchase new. 
             For example, when planning my annual office Margaritaville,  the themes
             all include a beach and palm trees, as those are my stock props I've
             gathered over the years. 
             The chili contest themes are usually designed around cows, since I have
              a large collection of standup cardboard cows. 
           But, this is not always the case.  Since cowboys have been associated with
           eating chili around campfires, I branched out years back and
           had a western state fair theme and a wild west theme. 
                         For this year's party, I figured lumberjacks
                              would eat chili, and it worked. 

PROPS:  We have a new GIANT holiday tree and a nice sized one from previous years.
             I asked the office staff to not take them to the party shed we rent because
             I wanted to use them (undecorated) for the chili Lumberjack theme.  I brought
             my two artificial trees to the office to add to the "foresty" look of the main
             lobby.  I own two 5' metal birdfeeders.  I filled one of them with sytrofoam and
            added artificial forest greenery to them.  I bought birch logs and branched on
            Amazon.  I drilled holes in the logs and glued the branches into the holes to
            make miniature trees.  See photo below.



I also have two manzanita trees.  I placed a couple of soft owls in theme for centerpieces.
Add some red checked vinyl cloth (Amazon) which I get on big bolts. 
MURALS:  For each party, I design window murals to fit the theme.  I create these in
               Photoshop in a 14" x 27" blank page.  This allows me to enlarge them to a
              36" x 72" format at either Office Depot or an office printer we use.  For years,
              people have enjoyed them as background, but this year clients actually were
              competing to get one.  I create my own "people" for them from bits and pieces
              of clipart. The guy below was expecially popular.



GAMES:  The clients and staff, especially after the State Fair theme, like a couple
                games.  I made this photo larger in order for you to see the stuffed trees
             on the shelf on the upper right.  I bought 3 bean bag axes on Etsy.  The
             object was to simple knock over the 3 trees to earn a raffle ticket.   
             Sounds easy?  It wasn't.  The fun of a game is to make it look easy, but   
             it actually isn't.  This also gave clients a chance to win cash even if
             they didn't bring a chili.


Lumberjacks need to get their lumber to the river.  So I polyeurathened four slices of wood from Michael's.  I ordered the ax from Etsy.  I already owned the
 wagon prop, the small trees, and the river runner.  The object was to use
the edge of the axe to slideall of the wood slices under the wagon and into the river.  Looks easy?  The table in the photo is deceiving.  It was four tables long.  That's about 20'.  I've learned to be one step ahead of all of these young architects at work.
I spend a LOT of time on how to vote each year.  I finally came up last year with most likely the fairest way.  Each client gets a cardstock half page with nine
ballots.  They are pre-cut between each one to make tearing off easier. The office manager came up with the idea of using lidded soup cups with slots cut in the
tops for the ballots.   There were only three categories this year, plus best over-all.
So, as you can see below, quite a few people got to win this year.  I made
three mini lego cabins on bases, I gave out 2 axes,  and 4 axe pizza cutters along with
cash prizes.  I also asked everyone to come to the party wearing PLAID.


There's ALWAYS a live band at each party. This is "Justin Trawick and the Common Good."

DESSERTS:  I have find that small bite sized desserts work the best.  My "forest dessert bar" had artificial turf, small trees, log trays and small furry animals.  I made my apple pies even smaller, black forest cherry cheesecakes, a log roll, cake pops, and owl cookies.


Don't let mama bear scare you.  Or mama fox.  I have a collection of life-sized animals
I love to fit into various themes.  There are 3 baby bears, a baby fox, mama skunk, 3 baby skunks, and various others.  Below are small versions of all eight panels.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Boom Town Presentation


Boom Town Presentation

How do you even start a presentation on a Boom Town?  I have been doing these with
the first graders at a local school for over four years now.  I researched extensively in the presentation, but there really wasn't a lot of information out there.  So, what I did find, I had to put on an elementary level.  Below is the BASIC list of topics that I cover.

Before the teachers and I even plan the day, we must reserve a space big enough to hold at least two classes.  We usually use a classroom.  The evening before, we push all of the desks together in the middle of the room and cover them with large pieces of brown paper.  We use blue posterboard/paper  to make a big lake and rivers.  We scrunch up
more brown paper for hills or one major mountain.  We have decided ahead of time, what the natural resource is for this year.  We have had mining and brick making a few times.
The read brick building in the photo above is that year's brick factory.

Talking Points


If you notice the green posterboard spaces on the maps, we decide where our open spaces and parks go at the town meeting, before any buildings are added.

Town Planning

This Boom Town was built the entire length of the school's gym.

Because transportation into a town is so important, the teachers and I agreed that
our towns would always have a railroad.  They introduce the idea of Boom Town to the classes by reading "Boom Town."  It is a story about a little girl who starts a pie business in a mining town.  The town booms up around her business.  The railroad tracks are always
a VERY EXCITING addition to the beginning.  One group years ago had their tracks go right
over the lake.  We've subsequently discussed the pros and cons of this every year.
Using Cereal/Food containers is just the right scale for Matchbox cars.

Real Life Examples

Again, before building I use two major examples of real towns with major differences in layouts.  CHARLESTOWN, SC  has a lot of residential buildings along their waterfront.
I tell them about visiting it and the carriage rides.  They have made their milk carton houses and a very eager to place them.  But they must wait until the green space is added.  The other city is Wilmington, NC.  It has major businesses along the water.  We talk more about tourism and how important to a town it might be.

INDUSTRIAL:  the main source of income to the town, after train stations and airports have been established, is the industry that supports the town.  This usually becomes a heated debate (lol) but they usually decide it should be on the outside of town near the railroad.  Seriously, first graders can understand this.

The students make their businesses as a homework project.  This is a wonderful idea, mostly because the parents help make the buildings with them and the creativity is awesome.  The teachers discuss ahead of time what businesses are ESSENTIAL to a town, and which ones are for entertainment.  Last year we had a CIRCUS for the first time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

London Party

The Theme

I thought I would start with my "Christmas in London" panels I made for the office party. There are eight major windows in the office lobby for which I design panels.  Each panel is 36" x 72" and fit together in pairs to make a scene.  The two below make up
London Bridge downtown.


These two panels show holiday shoppers, Big Ben, the ferris wheel, and a flavor of London houses.                               
Here's a little taste of Covent Garden.

It wouldn't be complete without Buckingham Palace.
This is our pretend host's, Sir Robert Morenton's, downtown house.
He is VERY wealthy and has an attached menagerie to his grounds which
house exotic animals.
Why did I invent him?
Because. . . I had a LOT of oversized stuffed animals I used as props for the Office's fall Margarita Party's Safari theme.  I wanted to use them again and then raffle them off as prizes for the games.  TA DA!
The Games
So, now that I've set the theme, let's see some photos.

        I had eight carnival style games.  Each game had a circus wagon backboard with an animal in the cage.  See the frame on the left with six windows.  I ordered it on Etsy.   It had screen on it and hung on a ceiling for a tent wedding chandelier.  I removed the screen and added a backboard.  My hubby drilled round holes for each opening.  The contestants used an air nerfball shooter that shot multiple balls rapid fire. Each opening had a different point value. 
     The middle game used a wooden backboard I've used before.  I  bought it on Etsy also a few years back.  It was worth every penny.  I put dinosaur banks at different positions in it, front to back.  I made cardboard signs that stuck into the bank slots.  Each one had
a simple target with a number value on it.  I reused my spud guns and real potatoes.  They are toy guns into which you stick the barrel to make a spud.  The contestants shot the spuds at the targets.

    The blue backboard was also from Etsy.  But it had nine slots.  It was designed as a
bean bag tic-tac-toe.  I decided to stand it up and Velcro buzzers I bought on Amazon to each slot.  Each buzzer makes a different sound.  I had three large stuffed frogs, that I did emergency surgery on the morning of the party.  They weren't heavy enough to ring the buzzers.  So I opened them up and added quite a bit of small rocks to each one to make them heavier.  It worked like a charm.
     The last game was just a wooden box turned on it's side.  Contestants had whiffle balls
to knock over the cans.  I placed everything in a large tray to contain balls going everywhere.  It seems simple, but it WASN'T.  Ha ha.


I put painters tape on the floor for throwing lines.  It's is a large party, so our office
kitchen was the perfect place.  Normally, I spread the games out along the hallways, but we had a scooter race going out there.

 On the right in the back you can see the tip the bottle up game (found on Etsy).
Our last game in the kitchen was using my snowball shooters, ito which we put small bean bag birds.  We launched them into a series of nests (left over from Easter place settings).

Here is Sir Robert Moreton's house and his Christmas Menagerie. He is standing in front of it to greet visitors.  In the front of the photo is one of the two oversized giraffes we used as markers for the right side of the kitchen.  The scooter contestants turned around them to ride back up to the front of the office.

The final game was in the building's lobby, outside Architecture Inc.'s front door.
These are Santa's (or Father Christmas's) dogs.  He wants to take them down the Thames River with him.  Contestants stood across the lobby with tennis ball throwers and tried to get three balls in the boats.  This is the dogs second party appearance.  Last year we tossed bones into their dog bowls in front of Santa's camper.
The Set-up
Meanwhile upfront. . .  here is a peek at panels on the window, the tree, the couch seating area, and a display of prizes.  The live band is back near the tree.
Above are some of the cardboard house centerpieces.  Each had a few houses, a London street sign, and an elf in a car.
I made another evergreen tree in my floral design class this year.  It made a nice
centerpiece, along with one of the elves in cars on the coffee table in the lobby.
I am NOT going to pass up holding a baby if I get the chance.

The Raffle
The final photo is the chart in main hall.  Here are some of the teen boys from staff families.  The score chart is in the background.  Races were run during the week.  I bought three different types of exercise scooters, to give contestants choices.  Only the teens could successfully ride all three.  For the RAFFLE, we tape up tons of envelopes on the wall of the conference room.  Some said "stuffed animal" inside.  Some said "prize" inside.  Others had cash with $25 to $200 in them.  At first, we drew names from each of the eight game boxes, where winners had placed their tickets.  Then we drew names from the raffle box with names from everyone who came to the party.  The party-goers love this part of the evening.  In case you are worrying that we didn't feed anyone, there was a Christmas turkey dinner  buffet with all the fixings in the conference room. 
What's Next? 
Another year.  More targets.  More group contests.  What does 2017 bring?  Of course I already have a theme and have started on the panels, but first the Lumberjack Chili Contest is March 16, so I've been preparing for that.