DIY: New Year’s Eve Masquerade

Christmas has collapsed around you and the Post-Holiday Blues are making it so easy to just … Netflix. But then *gasp* … A party invite!! A New Year’s Eve party invite!! And it requires … A mask?!?

Hold on to your spandex, minions!! We are going blow your night away with the best DIY masquerade costume ever.
Continue reading DIY: New Year’s Eve Masquerade

Party Hard, Family Style, at Universal Orlando Mardi Gras!

King Gator Float, Mardi Gras at UOR \ Image: Universal Orlando
King Gator Float, Mardi Gras at UOR \ Image: Universal Orlando

Mardi Gras is a family-friendly version of what you find in New Orleans. Complete with a parade, beads, concerts, and food from the area, it’s a fun day for everyone. During this visit, my son and I were given the opportunity to ride one of the floats and throw beads to the crowd. My son was nervous about riding a float, but I knew once he was on there and throwing beads, he would cheer up quick.

A quick history lesson. Mardi Gras happens on the last day of the Carnival season that begins January 6th and runs through the day before Ash Wednesday. Many people confuse Mardi Gras for Carnival, the celebration that leads up to Mardi Gras. In New Orleans, they not only throw beads from the floats but also other small trinkets from cups to stuffed animals.

Image: Dakster Sullivan
Image: Dakster Sullivan

If you’ve never been to Mardi Gras at Universal Studios, you have no idea what you are missing, so allow me to enlighten you.

At 9:00 am EST the park opens and everyone runs through the gates, rushing to be the first one on Escape to Gringotts or Minions. For me, Minions is a top priority followed by Transformers and Men In Black.

After hitting up the rides, we head over to Diagon Alley for Butterbeer. It’s a requirement to have two on every visit to the park—one in the morning and one before we leave. It’s a filling drink that easily holds us over till lunch time.

After a few hours of hanging out at the rides, eating at Richter’s Burger Co., and just enjoying a family day out in the wonderful 56 degree Florida weather, we finally see the beginnings of Mardi Gras starting.

Image: Dakster Sullivan
Image: Dakster Sullivan

I really enjoyed checking out the various masks and specialty beads you could purchase. My husband and son were more than happy to model their favorite choices for me. The beaded tie that my husband is wearing was $12 and the mask my son is modeling was around $16.

Nothing classier than a beaded tie. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Nothing classier than a beaded tie. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

The French Quarter area is a bit small in comparison to what I remember it being when I was a kid, but it’s still fun to hang around and check out. The food smelled great and the performers around the area were lively and happy to stop and chat with you for a bit.

I took the opportunity to tell a few of the performers about my son’s fear of riding the float that night. He was worried he would embarrass himself and get stage fright. They were all very welcoming and gave him words of encouragement about how much fun he was going to have. Between talking with them and the churro we bribed him with afterward, he seemed more warmed up to the idea. I also reminded him that Daddy would be spotting our float, so we were in good hands.

Did you know Mardi Gras spotter
Image: Dakster Sullivan

By the time we were checked in to ride the gator-themed float and taken backstage for our costumes, Brandon was jumping for joy. He picked out a cute gator hat to wear while I was given a parrot hat (I’m still confused on that one).

We loaded up on the float and gave one last wave to the crew backstage as we started the journey to the parade route.

The gator float is the last one on stage so the crowd was already pumped and ready for us. It was more fun than blasting stormtroopers with Nerf guns. My son yelled “fire!” every time he launched beads in the air. I tried to throw as far back as I could so the kids in the back could grab some, and, admittedly, I hit a few people in the face. One mom was lifting her two-year-old son’s shirt to “flash” us for beads.

Image: Dakster Sullivan
Image: Dakster Sullivan

A special treat at the end, we were all allowed to take home all the beads that we could grab off the float. My son and I walked off like little Jawa bandits.

The only downside to riding a float is that the concert starts before you are unloaded, so you miss getting a good seat, but really… riding a float and throwing beads or getting a decent seat in a crowded concert area? Riding the float wins hands down.

At the end of the day my son was happier than I had seen him while not plugged into a computer and we had a great day spending time as a family. It was an all-around fun family experience that I highly recommend to any family coming to town during the February through April months. If you’re an annual passholder and would like a chance to ride, you can sign up online. Children must be at least 48 inches to ride and wheelchairs can be accommodated with advanced notice.

The event runs until April 18th, so if you are in the area or looking for a reason to get away, Mardi Gras at Universal is the perfect excuse. For the adult party goers, the fun doesn’t stop at Universal Studios. It carries over in to CityWalk, with Pat O’Briens, AMC Theaters, Cow Fish, and other cool hangouts.

For ticket prices and a complete list of upcoming artists, head over to Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras website.

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Disclaimer: GeekMom was given tickets into this event. 

A Geological Birthday Party

All Images: Comic Salvage
All Images: Comic Salvage

As my children get older and more in control of their own preferences, I am always on the lookout for nifty tips and tricks in planing birthday parties. So I was delighted to hear from Sue over at Comic Salvage about a Geological birthday party she thew at the request of her five year old. In addition to the most frequent Pinterest offenders; the use of cookies as fossils, stones as place holders and as much rock candy as could be bought in a tri-county area, Sue came up with some amazing ideas to indulge her sons obsession:

Panning for Gemstones

Rock 2

Miniature, personal geological sites were created with buckets & shovel/sifter kits from the Dollar Tree. Tumbled stones from Rock Tumbler were spread throughout the buckets for the most cunning geologists to uncover. Playground sand from a local hardware store and water made it so that the kids were able to pan for gemstones then put them in their own rock kit for later identification.

Rock collecting kits

Rock 3

Make your own rock collecting kit using a bead box from your nearest craft store. Each child gets their own kit, which includes stickers for decoration, a set of magnifying glasses from a local party store, and a kid-friendly rock collecting book from Store for Knowledge.

Treasure Rocks 

Rock 4

Never be afraid to swipe ideas from a holiday focused craft. Using instructions on how to make a blarney stone for St Patrick’s Day, Sue made Treasure rocks. Each of Sue’s rocks contained a bouncy ball, but there is no end to the amount of things you could store inside.

To this fun list I would probably add British rock cakes to the menu, and the old game of pass the parcel with a rock theme. Music choices? Rock Lobster and Meet the Flinstones by the BC-52s of course!

Any suggestions on how to rock this theme even more?

 

Eat Like a Geek: Peppermint Toads

IMG_0679

My daughter recently had a Harry Potter themed birthday party. The festivities of the day are for another article, but part of the Honeydukes gift bags were homemade Peppermint Toads.

My husband and I are foodies. Why do something food related halfway when you can do it right? This includes candy recipes that call for those Wilton flavored discs that are used as candy coating. Why make candy if you are going to use those? Continue reading Eat Like a Geek: Peppermint Toads

Star Wars Celebration VI: 501st Legion Presence

501st Legion CVI Group Picture / Image: Savanna Kiefer
501st Legion CVI Group Picture / Image: Savanna Kiefer

Star Wars Celebration VI in late August was the biggest party in the galaxy. From celebrities to parties, there was something for everyone. The 501st Legion had a very strong presence. Known for professional grade costumes and charity work, the 501st Legion was a big part of the convention, with troopers coming from all over the world to showcase their costumes, props and sets.

501st Legion Room

Clone Trooper Locker Room  Image and Build by Zach Winnermark
Clone Trooper Locker Room Image and Build by Zach Winnermark

The 501st Legion room was a must see at Celebration VI. With costumes, props and sets on loan by some of the best builders in the legion, you could easily spend a few hours looking at everything. To make it all happen it took months of planning and personal spending for the troopers involved.

A couple of our troopers built sets and props specifically to show off at Celebration VI. From the clone locker room, to the legion moniker to the trash compactor set, the Florida Garrison brought all we had to the event. It took several hours, stretched over a couple of days to get the room and all the other 501st Legion areas set up. Florida Garrison troopers built and brought in their own sets, costumes and props to display in the room

We had a nice selection of sets that guests could take pictures with including the clone trooper locker room, Han in Carbonite, the 501st Legion moniker and the trash compactor set (a giant foam ball pit for adults). Members volunteered to talk to guests about the various displays and answered questions on how they too could be a member of the 501st Legion. Continue reading Star Wars Celebration VI: 501st Legion Presence

Star Wars Week: The Imperial Bash At Celebration VI

This August, Star Wars Celebration VI will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. One of the evening convention highlights of the event is the Imperial Bash hosted by the 501st Legion. The 501st Legion has opened this “not to be missed event” up to the general public! With Star Wars celebrities, HUGE giveaways and exclusive swag items, you are sure to have a blast!

This year, the mighty Jabba has taken over and has issued this decree:

His Excellency, the illustrious Jabba the Hutt, requests your presence to honor The 501st Legion and invites you to attend the Imperial Bash: Party At The Palace, Friday August 24th. His loyal servants will be opening the palace doors at 9pm.

Open to all of Jabba’s loyal subjects who are the ages of 18 and up, it’s said to be the biggest party in the galaxy. Everyone in attendance will also receive exclusive swag including, but not limited to (1) pack of exclusive 501st legion trading cards with each pack containing a rare bonus card.

Tickets into the palace are $26 each. A 3% processing free is added to the price of each ticket and $.50 handling fee is added to each order.

So, what are you waiting for? Tickets are limited and 90% of them are already sold.

Birthday Week: A Beatles-Themed First Birthday

Beatles 1st Birthday for my son Liam (This montage was from the invite!)

Throwing a first birthday party is usually a festive affair, filled with balloons and cake and presents. When our first son turned one we centered the whole party around his favorite stuffed animal, a Paul Frank Monkey. We knew we wanted to do something different for our second son’s first birthday party, something that even adults would enjoy. We thought about all of our family’s favorite things, one of them is music, specifically classic rock. Our family loves the Beatles. Both of our sons had Beatles songs that we sang them in utero and we even filled their nurseries with lullaby renditions of The Beatles while they slept. It seemed natural to pick The Beatles as a theme for our little boys first birthday party.

Liam sporting his Beatle's "1" onesie, after cake.

A Beatles themed party was a perfect for kids and adults alike. Everyone had so much fun no one seemed to notice that we had stuffed over 35 people into our tiny townhouse in the middle of the summer. When I started planning this party, I only had one specific planned out, I wanted my son to wear the Beatle’s 1 album onesie for the party. It couldn’t have been more perfect and didn’t require any customization. (Let me just point out I hate buying clothes for my kids that they can only wear once, so the Beatles onesie was a perfect choice, because it didn’t scream “birthday party”.) I also grabbed an inexpensive “after cake” shirt from Target that was also Beatles themed.

The Beatles Birthday Cake (made by me!)

After the birthday boy attire, my second bit of inspiration was learning how to tie-dye fondant. I used the tie-dyed fondant method to create a colorful bottom layer to the two layer cake. The top layer was an all red layer with the Abbey Road silhouettes. The silhouettes were made from edible paper designed for die cutting. The topper was a hand made replica of the number 1 off of The Beatles 1 album cover out of colored white chocolate and sprinkles. It was an amazing chocolate fudge cake, filled with mint ganache, covered with marshmallow mint buttercream, then a thin layer of fondant. It looked amazing and held up to the July heat.

Ok, so this pic isn't from the party, its my older son (now 3, pic from when he was just turning 1) enjoying our Beatles Rock Band set. He still loves playing the drums, and is surprisingly good at it.

After the attire and the cake, the rest of the party was a blast to put together. My husband rented a projector to hook up to our Wii, so that we could dedicate our entire basement to The Beatles: Rock Band. Everyone got into it and gave a lot of the teens and dads something more interesting to do then sit around chatting with me and my mom friends.

My older son Sean had a blast in the "Jump" house.

We didn’t do party games, because we didn’t need to, everyone had a blast. We borrowed a small bounce house from a friend and the little kids all got a chance to Jump like the Beatles. There were bubbles, music and enough friends to make any kids party a blast.

The Beatles food spread.

I will admit when it came to food selections I needed a bit of inspiration. I pulled up the list of Beatles songs and circled anything that could even possibly relate to food. What we ended up with was this:

  • Sargent Dr. Pepper 
  • Benefit of Mr. Sprite
  • Apples Records with Cheese
  • Yellow Submarine Sandwiches
  • Strawberr(ies) Fields Forever
  • Sgt. Red Peppers and Hummus
  • Then we added in a few things I knew the kids would eat like chicken nuggets and smiley potatoes.
Decorations are simple when you have a band that spans so many genres of music and lifestyles!

Decorations for a Beatles party are easy and endless! When we invited everyone we told them to wear their favorite Beatles gear, tie-dye or Union-Jacks. Everyone looked awesome! We did simple decorations around the house, made sure we hung our Beatles pictures prominently (we have many). We decorated with bright rainbow colored paper lanterns outside under our umbrella and in our kitchen. We decorated liberally with a rainbow of  fabric gerber daisies. I bought a handful of old vinyl records at Goodwill that were already ruined. I used some of them to make signage for the bathrooms and food choices, and  the rest of them I made into vinyl record bowls. (They make for great give away’s at the end of the party!) We handed out beads, temporary peace sign tattoos and hippie rubber duckies for the older kids and Ty-Dyed Teddy Bears for the littlest kids (less than one year old). Finally, I had handmade yellow submarine lollipops out of chocolate to give everyone as a favor for joining us on Liam’s big day.

If this doesn't tell you how much he loved the party, I don't know what will!

All in all it was the best party I’ve ever planned and it turned our fabulously. It was SO much fun, I would do it all again in a heartbeat, and might considering this is a great theme for any age! I am so glad that we really showed our geeky personalities in our youngest son’s big day.

Birthday Week –A Quinceañera: the Biggest Birthday Bash of Your Life (if you're turning 15, Latina and willing to participate)

I'm somewhere under all that tulle. Image: Cindy

Quinceañeras are a big, big, big deal in Latino culture.

It’s something like a Sweet 16 but it happens at the age of 15 and, if the family is Catholic, often involves a mass in the Quinceañera’s honor. The entire ordeal takes months of planning, from the tremendous wedding-worthy sized cake to the dresses for the “damas” and the souvenirs for the guests. The celebration varies from country to country so, I’ll just give you the rundown of what it is like for me, a born and raised New Yorker with Salvadoran parents.

At the age of 14, my mother started asking me if I’d even want a Quinecañera; this celebration does not come with a cheap price tag, which is why some families opt to have “godparents” sponsor the purchase of pricier items for the party. By the end, the Quinceañera can have a madrina de zapatos, de anillo, de vestido, de comida, de bebida y de pastel (a godmother for her shoes, ring, dress, food, drinks and cake). My mother considers this tacky and prefers to pay for the entire thing herself so, a consenting teen was preferred. Unfortunately for my mom, I was going through a “goth” stage at that time. I wore massive amounts of black  make-up and listened to Korn and Marilyn Manson — so being clad in a pink ball gown was not my idea of a good time and it HAD to be pink.

These days the hues of Quinceañera dresses are much more varied; I’ve even witnessed a black one (jealous!). On the other hand, as much as my mother gets on my nerves I love her to pieces and if this was going to make her happy, then I was willing to “suffer through it.” I agreed to a Quince, but a Quince MY way. I chose navy blue as the color for the party (as close to black as I could get before my mother firmly put her foot down), which meant the damas in my court wore navy blue dresses and the caballeros wore navy blue cummerbunds and ties. The damas are something like bridesmaids and the court consists of 14 of them, representing my first 14 years and each of them is accompanied by a caballero. The damas and caballeros vary in age, however no one is older than 14 (I think the youngest in my court was 5 years old).  My partner and I are the 15th members of the court and since this is the celebration of my coming of age, only I am allowed to be 15.

For the mass, my court entered before me much like in a wedding. I entered last accompanied by my father and had a seat at the alter. During the mass, my godmother  presented me with a blessed ring and a bible.

The reception was held at a banquet hall and the entrance was the same: damas and caballeros first from youngest to oldest, ending with my father and me.  As the court entered the hall they formed two lines; boys on one side and girls on the other.

The Damas. Image: Cindy

My father and I danced a waltz between the two lines and each couple had to join us in the dance as we passed them. Once we were all dancing my father passed me to my partner and we ended the waltz this way. After the traditional waltz, we are supposed to choose a song of MY preference to dance to. Since I was not into any typical Spanish music, a popular song was chosen for me and we danced. Somewhere around this time, I started to realize I was really having fun.

There is a tradition representing the girl’s passage from childhood into adulthood in which the girl’s father changes her shoes from flats to heels. I chose not to do this, I didn’t like the idea of my dad changing my shoes, in my head it was tantamount to him being a servant. So instead we danced some more and this was when my quince really began. I brought my own CDs to the hall knowing any DJ hired by my mother would not have any kind of music I really liked. I sauntered over to his station, handed over a heap of late 90’s angsty teen music including Garbage’s Version 2.0 and Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill. I head banged the night away.

My tiara stayed in place.

Muppet Party Ideas

Image Copyright Disney

Everyone has their favorite Muppets, right? My favorites form a triumvirate between Animal, Miss Piggy, and Beaker. I was an avid viewer of the television show and am excited to introduce my kids to the Muppets too. Check out these great ideas for a Muppet Party! You can make your own Scooter dip and Fozzie cookies to celebrate the movie’s opening on November 23rd! Wocka wocka!

 

Costume Ideas From the Smithsonian

Maybe my daughter would have been less grumpy if we had dressed her in one of the Smithsonian inspired costumes for her first Halloween (Image: Mandy Horetski)

Even though I’m not dressing up this year for Halloween, I don’t usually lack from costume ideas. I have a closet full of costumes including my Kaylee Layer Cake dress, a TOS Star Trek shirt and even a Ren Faire dress. But some people might not be as lucky as I am to have a great number of costumes already in their homes.

In anticipation of Halloween, Smithsonian Magazine has put out a list of costumes you could choose based on some of the most famous exhibits that have been on display at the Smithsonian Institution. You could pick to be an early human, Annie Oakley or even Dracula!

So if you are still searching for a great costume idea to wow at Halloween parties or even while you take your kids out trick or treating, you can view the whole list at the Smithsonian Magazine website.

DIY Lego Craft: Repurposing Old Jars

Image Courtesy of obSEUSSed.com

If anyone is looking for an idea for a Lego party, I have one for you. This is a brilliant idea and a great use for any baby food jars you might have laying around. I will be tucking this idea away in case little geek wants a lego party at some point. You don’t have to use baby food jars either. We get some phenomenal Caramel Cashew Trail Mix at Target that has the same shape of jar but it is much bigger. You could store all kinds of things in there and use them for decorations. Come to think of it, you could make pumpkins out of them too. Hmmmm….

Vintage Super Hero Party

Image from Crossing the Booger Dixon Line

Being a party design freak, I am always on the lookout for cute ideas that I can use. When I come across creative ideas that I might use in the future I save them. You never know when you might be in need of a pink cowgirl hoedown or a posh poodle in Paris party plan! This delightful idea flitted across my vision today and I had to share with my GeekMoms. This mom went up up and away to create a fantastic vintage super hero party for her son who was turning five. The look of the party items is classic comic book and she even has a telephone booth made from a box. Check it out for some fabulous decorating ideas for your next super soiree.

Host a Summer Reading Party

Reading is important, but how to you encourage kids to keep reading over the summer?

Reading is fun!

Check your local library and bookstores to see if they have any summer reading programs.

PBS Kids offers some great ideas for raising a reader this summer.  They’ve partnered with iVillage to form a Summer Community Reading Challenge with free daily emails with reading tips, book suggestions, prizes and more.

One fun activity is to host a summer reading party.

The great folks at PBS sent me a kit to have a summer reading party, which I did with the tot’s class.  We talked about why reading is important, read a story together (Green Eggs and Ham), made a group story, wrote and drew pictures about our favorite books, and everone got a goodybag with books and bookmarks to take home.

But you don’t need a kit or anything fancy to have a reading party of your own. It’s a great way not only to keep the excitement about going, but bringing parents and kids together.  There’s no wrong way to have a reading party. Here are a few of my ideas:

  1. Decide on a theme. Maybe you feature summer books and have the party outside by the pool, or maybe your living room becomes an ocean wonderland. Perhaps everyone is encouraged to come dressed as their favorite character from a book.  Design your invitations around your theme–invite the kids and parents.
  2. Have a book exchange. Encourage everyone to bring a wrapped gently-loved age-appropriate book to trade.  You can even have two exchanges, one for the kids and one for the adults. Everyone who brings a book to trade will get a different one to bring home and keep.
  3. Read a story that fits with your theme. If it’s a well-loved story, maybe your guests help you read it, either by passing the book around and everyone reading a page or by filling in the words (or correcting you when you’re “wrong.”)
  4. Have an art project. Bookmarks are fun and easy and can be made using construction paper, crayons, and whatever you have around (stickers, glitter, etc). You can also have the kids (and adults, if they’d like) draw a picture of their favorite book and write a few sentences about why it’s their favorite.
  5. Create a group story. Make up a fill0in0the-blanks story ahead of time then have everyone throw out word suggestions without knowing what the story is.  Add in their words, then read out loud the finished story and let the laughter ensue.  With younger kids it can be fun to write it on a big piece of  paper using simple words and have them read the story back to you.
  6. Serve a snack that tie in with the theme. It doesn’t need to be fancy — fruit skewers, gold fish, or, if it fits your theme, green eggs and ham.
  7. Hold your book exchange (if you decide to do one), have everyone share the books they’ve either just read or look forward to reading, collect their art projects, and go home.

If you had a reading party what would you do?

How to Throw an Angry Birds-Themed Birthday Party

A thieving pig, dirty from his last tower destruction, awaits the next Angry Bird KO.

Almost-two-year-olds aren’t very responsive when you ask what kind of birthday party they’d like. Especially mine, who isn’t the talker that his sister was. Three connected words are still a rarity, so when he spent a whole evening repeating, “Ang-y Birds par-ty! Ang-y Birds par-ty!”, I knew we had a winner.

I, on the other hand, was like Jared Newman–I simply didn’t get the Angry Birds phenomenon. I even tried playing it a time or two, and it reminded me of a thousand Flash games I’d played before. But how can you say no to “Ang-y Birds par-ty!”? You can’t. (I have since, as a result of planning this party, given in to full Angry Birds addiction.)

Step 1: Angry Birds decorations

This isn’t the sort of theme you can throw together the night before. Party City doesn’t have a convenient kit for an Angry Birds party. No pre-printed cups or packaged party favors. That leaves it to the DIY GeekMom. I focused on the bright, generally primary colors that Angry Birds uses and worked from there.

The most important step was sticker paper for the printer. The Oatmeal has a great image scaling the likability of the various birds. At the bottom, he offers a PNG file of the images he made for the birds–make a page full of them, and presto, stickers! I stuck them to everything–cups, balloons, favor boxes, children…

Then I got two shades of green posterboard and started making pigs. It took only one evening and two sheets of posterboard to make a dozen pigs of various sizes. I also downloaded the Angry Birds font and cut out my son’s name to make a banner.

For favors, I bought some generic red treat boxes and applied the aforementioned stickers. I filled them with gold-foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, gold eggs filled with glittery silly-putty-type goo, egg-shaped sidewalk chalk, and more stickers. (And bubbles, because who doesn’t like bubbles? But they were completely un-thematic.)

Step 2: Angry Birds cake

Of course, there’s the famous playable Angry Birds cake. But since we played much larger Angry Birds (see the end of this post), we didn’t need to play with our cake too. Well, not much.

I made small pigs on cupcakes the same way I did my daughter’s Helly Kitty cupcakes last fall. Super easy. They’re displayed in small (5”) versions of the live Angry Birds boards (which you’ll see at the end of this post).

Angry Birds cake

Then I made one large, 3D pig with a ball pan and lots of green fondant. I found the Touch of Gold Egg Decorating Kit in the dollar store and used it to make a dozen gold eggs. The large (slightly cracked, ready to be defeated) pig sat atop his stolen golden eggs on an old Easter egg stand I had around.

And just to complete the effect–as well as to amuse my five-year-old daughter for a while by letting her fill the pan one spoonful at a time–the inside of the large pig was made of “ground up Angry Birds”:

I tried to go thematic with other food, but that was a challenge. If you’ve got time on your hands, these Babybel Angry Birds are amazingly cute. But what did we do for food? Well…you know how the birds in the game don’t have wings? It’s because they were served on our party table with hot sauce.

The grand finale: Live Angry Birds game

Back in March, I saw “Live Angry Birds” on the SXSW schedule, which led me to tweet:

It actually turned out to be pretty fun:

Helping the birthday boy up to the launch

And not that hard to build. The first thing you’ll need are stuffed pigs and birds. You can go the lazy-but-expensive way and buy them at shop.angrybirds.com or on eBay. The DIY GeekMom way is to make them. Making them also means you can stuff the birds with beans to give them some heft. The shapes are pretty basic, but if you’re short on time or just like to have something to follow, obsessively stitching blog has great instructions and printable patterns.

For the walls, I bought a dozen sheets of foam board and cut them into 10”x10” squares (5”x5” for the cupcakes). Then I gave them each an appropriate wash with some tempera paint–blue for the glass (or ice? I’ve never been sure), brown with a quick swirl for woodgrain, and gray for the stone. I found that the most stable construction, especially since we played outside, was to cut only partly through some of the boards. If you perforate the foam board with an Xacto knife, then bend it to break through, one piece of the paper will stay intact. Bend at that joint to make a V shape, and place a fully cut 10”x10” board on top. Then start stacking! If you’re outside with the chance of a sudden breeze, it helps as you stack to place a pig inside once in a while to weight it down.

Then it’s time to launch the birds! Have two adults hold the ends of a resistance band. It might take a few tries to get the technique, but it’ll work as a slingshot. The best way we found was to grip the bird from the outside of the band.

It’s a bit late to mention, but…

Overall, it helps to be planning this party around Easter since it makes it easier to find things like chalk-shaped eggs and gold egg dye. I even sent extra kids on an egg hunt around the yard while other people were shooting birds (heh).

Party on, Angry Birds lovers.

“We’ll Get Around to It Eventually”: Fitting a Wedding Into a Military Lifestyle

"Getting hitched" in Leesville, Louisiana, August 1995. I still have the dress and even still wear it on occasion. The best $39.99 I've ever spent! Photo used with permission.

What happens when you cross two overachieving meteorologists who chose to join the Air Force — and happen to be in love?

You put “Get Married” on your To Do List, in between dry cleaning, getting an oil change, and the oodles of military training trips the two of us had.  We visited the trailer home of Arlene, the Justice of the Peace of Vernon Parish, Louisiana, and got married among four of our closest — um — office mates.

My boss's wife made the beautiful wedding cake. That's my boss's office, which should be everyone's first choice for a wedding reception location. We still have that token Wilton-brand topper. And I remember that poster hanging up behind the cake: it's the Fort Polk, Louisiana quick-reference phone directory. Photo used with permission.

This is common in military life.  Especially when it comes to fitting wedding and wedding planning in between trips to the field, trips for additional meteorology training, etc.  Military couples “get hitched” and put off the real church wedding with family and friends for a later date.  Typically this is done so a couple can get stationed together, or to get military medical and housing benefits transferred to the new spouse.

In my case, I simply couldn’t handle the stresses of planning a wedding while living so far from our friends and family…and my future spouse who was living in Pennsylvania while I was just getting set up in Louisiana.  Our schedules were so busy!  My husband was actually still in college, and was awaiting orders for Air Force Officer Training School, so to plan a date simply wasn’t going to work.  We didn’t want wedding plans to get in the way of his entering the Air Force, the work force, his earning potential.  In addition, my father was stationed in Guam at the time with the Navy.  Flying my parents and sister back to the states wasn’t an insignificant expense — about half of what I was willing to budget for a wedding!

That was 15 1/2 years ago!  We contemplated renewing our vows for our 5th anniversary, having a church wedding and a classic reception.  Oops, in August 2000 we were just returning to the states after bring stationed overseas in Seoul, Korea.  In fact, our furniture was being moved into our new house in Ohio on our anniversary itself!

How about our 10th anniversary?  Probably not…we were again in the middle of a move from Florida to North Carolina — complete with a toddler and newborn!

This still weighs heavily on my husband and me — that we haven’t had a traditional wedding with the chance to exchange vows in front our friends, family and God.  No pretty dress, no beautiful wedding portraits…I’ve never gotten to experience that special day that’s supposed to be “All About Me Us”.

Army Aviators Ball, Seoul, Korea, May 1999. Instead of a wedding dress, I had to invest in a dress uniform. Photo used with permission.

My wedding day was not an “all about me us” kind of day.  We got married in the morning, then I had to work an overnight shift that night.  Really!

But as reality and practicality sets in, I wonder how to tastefully go about inviting the now-hundreds of friends (after living in 7 different communities, you pick up a lot of great friends) and family to a church wedding after 15+ years and two kids.

I think about others who have similar challenges, but make it a higher priority than Dave and I apparently did.  They made the wedding happen: the choose the date, the location and the wedding party.  If guests can make it, great, if not, so sorry.

There’s also the matter of budget.  I consider the wonderful things my husband and I have done over the past 15 1/2 years…we’ve traveled the world, had great experiences and have led a pretty darned good life…despite a lifestyle of deployments and frequent moves.  Do I want to invest $10,000-20,000 for a lavish party?  Now that we’re that much older, I certainly don’t expect the parents to do it!  After all, our parents now have their 50th Anniversaries in their scopes and perhaps we should be investing in their celebrations instead.

Help me out readers!  Should we have the later-in-life wedding?  Or should we save our money?

Star Wars Bowling Pins

May a strike be with you Image Jennifer D.

Way before we had picked our birthday party theme, my son had been snacking on Gerber Graduates Puffs. While he loves these, I was dismayed because the containers were not recyclable. So, I had been saving them trying to think of a use for them. Once the label was peeled off, the container reminded me of a person’s shape. It was then that inspiration struck and I set about making baby food containers into a set of Star Wars bowling pins.

What you need:

  • 10 puffs containers, washed out with lids. You can find the Gerber ones anywhere and Target sells their brand too. They are basically the same shape.
  • Sharpie markers in a variety of colors
  • Good quality images of the characters you want. I found several random images that I attempted to draw via Google and the very talented Katie Cook was inspirational as well.
  • Beans or rice to weigh them down
  • Small ball for bowling

If you can’t tell by that scary C3PO above, I am not an artist (seriously, he looks like he is psycho or something) but I found images of Star Wars characters that I thought would be easy enough to draw free hand onto the bottles. Then I took my time and did the best I could, reminding myself that this is for a kid’s birthday party and they didn’t need to be perfect. If you make a mistake, the marker does not come all the way off. Hence the unfortunate moob on the stormtrooper. It does, however, rub off some so you have to be careful that you don’t accidentally smudge it off while completing your drawing. Also, the darker colors tend to smear into the lighter colors. You are really only limited by your imagination and,of course, your drawing skills, but these would work for just about any party theme. My favorites are Yoda and Jaba the Hutt. Which ones do you like?

Jabba and Boba Fett Image Jennifer D.
Yoda Image Jennifer D.

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Goody Bag Paradise: The Dollar Bin

Goody Bags Image Jennifer D.

Goody bags themselves have always presented a conundrum to me. On the one had, apparently it is a sin to send kids home from a party without one. On the other hand, they are usually filled with junk that ends up cluttering up geekette’s room. Goody bags at our house have been known to disappear and then mysteriously reappear with only the useful things still inside. I call it the goody bag yeti. My daughter was convinced we had a yeti living in our backyard when she was little so let’s just go with that. (She used to be convinced we had an ice troll in our freezer too, but that is another story).

Ergo, when I buy stuff for the inevitable goody bags I try and find things that fit the theme, are fairly cheap, AND will not end up as clutter. To that end, we pick our party theme several months in advance and I start scouring dollar stores and bins around our town as well as the web for good ideas. Here is what we came up with for our Star Wars party. These were all found in dollar bins except for the manual which cost printer paper and ink:

  • Decorative Tin Pail: the ones at Target were Yoda and one with Luke, Vader, Emperor, Yoda, the Death Star, and the Millennium Falcon.
  • A stress ball in the shape of C3PO’s head or Vader’s head. C’mon, first grade can be stressful.
  • A pair of ink pens: one with Yoda and one with Obi Wan Kenobi. When you click the button, it scrolls through several of their respective quotes.
  • Light up Yoda yoyo. Say that 5 times fast.
  • The 501st Imperial Cadet Training Manual: these I printed off, rolled up, and tied with some jute string.
Contents of The Bag Image Jennifer D.

In addition to these items, each child gets to take home their own pool noodle lightsaber. If you really want to up the ante for the saber battles, print off some masks for the kids. They have characters from the original series, Revenge of the Sith, and Clone Wars. For Star Wars specific goody items, you can check out the craft pages at StarWars.com. They have a ton of ideas not just for goody bags but also crafts you could do as activities at the party. Today’s Mama also has some excellent ideas on goody bag fodder for other themed parties.



Cue The Imperial March: The Death Star Pinata

We have been busy at our house preparing for the galactic event that is our kid’s birthdays. Geekette will be turning 7 and little bro will be hitting the big one, all within 6 days of each other. How we did that I will never know, but my mom and her dad were born on the same day and my husband and his dad were born a day apart. Must be genetic. At any rate, as our theme is the original Star Wars movies, I have had to make pretty much every decoration we have. This year, big sis decided she wanted a pinata. I found several good pictures of death star pinatas on the web so I set to  work.

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I just saw that spot I missed. Sigh. Image Jennifer D.

Things you need to make a planet destroying space station:

I purchased a soccer ball pinata at a local craft store. It was covered in this weird tissue paper that was fluffed out so I proceeded to tear that all off. The death star is definitely NOT fluffy. Once it was pretty much denuded of tissue paper, I filled it with candy left over from Halloween. This step is very important. In my zeal to get the thing painted I nearly forgot to put the goodies in it. That would have been an epic fail.

Once the candy was inside, I pulled the area closed as best I could, put masking tape over the hole and spray painted it with a flat gray spray paint. Another important step, be sure you are standing up wind while spray painting. I let that dry for a couple of hours and then, using my illustration as a guide, I attacked it with a black sharpie. I had thought about using a paintbrush, but my hand is just not that steady and I was worried I would screw up the details. Which I would have. Remember, it doesn’t have to look perfect because it will ultimately be destroyed thus saving the galaxy. Unfortunately it is too late for Alderaan.

How To Throw A Star Wars Halloween Party

GeekMomHalloweenpostfinal1

I am a Halloween Geek. It is my favorite holiday, hands down. When my daughter turned three, I decided I would throw an annual Halloween party for me… er, I mean her. Each year we pick a theme and go crazy with it. This summer, our eldest watched the three original Star Wars movies. Being the daughter of a GeekMom and a GeekDad, she was instantly in love with all things Star Wars. When asked what she wanted her theme to be for Halloween, she threw it down. A Star Wars Halloween Party.

Not one to shy from a challenge, I told her I would shop around and see what I could come up with. I warned her though, that the characters she loved would be hard to find as most party supplies available are Clone Wars related. Here is what I came up with:

Snacks

The key to successful Star Wars snacks giving them creative names. For example, a bone-in ham becomes roast leg of BanthaWomp rat casserole is really a potato casserole with chunks of chicken. Here are a few other examples of re-named cuisine with a Star Wars twist:

  • Sarlac Belly Beans: baked beans
  • Tauntaun entrails with blood sauce: spaghetti and meatballs
  • Leia’s garlic buns: use the garlic bread sticks you can get at the store and roll them into a spiral.
  • Death Star Cake

You get the idea. There are literally tons of pictures and ideas on the web.

Decorations

Decorating for your festivities requires a little more time.  Here are some ideas to get you going:

  • Monster Mash Ups. I just got mine at Target. These are the coolest and would look amazing on your food table.
  • Carve pumpkins with Star Wars images. You can find patterns on the web.
  • This one will only work if it is still daylight out side or if you have a light outside the window. Get a black table cloth, poke holes in it, and cover a window: voila, space! Print out images of the Death Star, Millennium Falcon, X Wings, and Tie Fighters and affix them. Or if you have some laying around the house, hang them with fishing line.
  • Make your own Death Star pinata. If you can find Star Wars plates, more power to you. If not, use black plates with red and/or green plastic ware. Or you can do a Jedi table and a Sith table with corresponding color choices

Games

  • Light saber battles: To make your own cheap light sabers, take the tube inside of wrapping paper. Tape off the bottom quarter to make the handle and spray paint the rest red or green depending on your allegiance. Paint the bottom black. The Jedi whose light saber survives the battle the most intact is the winner. Depending on the age of the party goers, you could have them decorate their own light saber. If you want to make one that is a little more involved, say for a costume, check this out.
  • Pass the Death Star:  Make a Death Star out of a large Styrofoam ball, silver spray paint, and a black sharpie. Play Star Wars music and have the kids pass the Death Star around. When the music stops, whoever is holding the Death Star gets “blown” out of the circle. The game continues until one person remains.
  • Meteor Shower:  Get some brown balloons. Put a small toy/prize inside. Blow them up, tie them off, and add fishing line. Hang them at different heights around the room. The person who can make it through the meteors without bumping one wins the game. At the end, have the kids destroy the meteors and get the prizes inside.
  • Star Wars Bocce Ball or Destroy the Death Star: Paint a pumpkin to look like the Death Star. Be as accurate as you want. Get several of the small pumpkins (enough that each guest can take one home) and paint or tape an X Wing shape on it. Each child gets a turn to fly (roll) their X Wing and blow up the Death Star. The child who gets the closest to the Death Star wins. Make sure the kids are far enough back that it is not too easy.
  • A more intricate way to play Destroy the Death Star: Use a piece of plywood and draw a Death Star on it. Before painting it, put a small hole big enough for a bean bag. Decorate the Death Star. Have the kids take turns trying to “shoot” a bean bag through the “thermal exhaust port”.

Hopefully these ideas have helped get those creative geek juices flowing! Check out the Star Wars Halloween Round Up for more ideas to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year.